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Large clay-laden plume found in East Grand Traverse Bay, tied to construction site

Oct 15, 2014

Steven Stinson, lifelong Acme Township resident, photographed the silty run-off entering East Grand Traverse Bay on September 22, 2014
Credit Steven Stinson

A large plume of clay-laden silt has clouded the waters in portions of East Grand Traverse Bay.

The plume has been linked to run-off from the construction site of Grand Traverse Town Center in Acme Township, a 160-acre multi-use development which will be anchored by a Meijer store.

Brian Jankowski of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality said the run-off violates various state and federal permits.

Jankowski said the degree of environmental damage is unknown. "On the other hand," he added, "it's not something I want to down play because I think it's pretty serious when it comes to looking at that construction site and what's been discharged from it. It's a violation of water quality standards."

According to Jankowski,  the contractor is using a multitude of mitigation efforts to stop the flow of clay- laden silt to Acme Creek, which flows into East Grand Traverse Bay.

But he is concerned that heavy rainfalls and winter weather could hamper those efforts. That's because the topsoil was removed from most of the construction site, and weather conditions could make it more difficult for site stabilization efforts to succeed, such as laying new topsoil and growing grass.

Jankowski said the MDEQ has not yet decided on any enforcement action.

Christine Crissman, executive director of the Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay, said the plume threatens the environment. "In the creek, you're going to cover up the habitat for fish and aquatic insects, which are sort of the lifeblood of the health of your stream, " she said. "And it's going to do the same thing when it gets into the near shore of the Bay."  

Crissman said nutrients in the sediment can also promote damaging algae blooms.

Virginia Gordan, Michigan Radio Newsroom