Cleanup removes tons of mercury from Michigan lake

Project Summary: A dredging project removed 43,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the bottom of Muskegon Lake and advanced efforts to remove the lake from a list of 43 Great Lakes Areas of Concern.

Project name: Muskegon Lake — Division Street Outfall Sediment Cleanup.

Location: Muskegon, Mi.

Description: Historic pollution discharges into a storm sewer that drained into Muskegon Lake, which flows into Lake Michigan, deposited tons of mercury and petroleum compounds on the lake bottom. The pollutants contaminated fish, destroyed habitat and contributed to Muskegon Lake being named a Great Lakes Area of Concern in the late 1980s. The tainted sediments contaminated fish, prompting consumption advisories. The dredging near the Division Street outfall was the second major sediment removal project in the Muskegon Lake Area of Concern. The EPA recently completed a $10 million project that removed 95,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from Ruddiman Creek, a tributary of Muskegon Lake. Those cleanups will bolster efforts to get the lake delisted as a Great Lakes Area of Concern.

Cost of project: $12 million, most of which came from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Resource challenges addressed: Contaminated sediments laced with mercury, which contributed to fish consumption advisories; and the loss of fish habitat.

A dredge removes contaminated sediment from the bottom of Muskegon Lake. (Muskegon Chronicle photo)

A dredge removes contaminated sediment from the bottom of Muskegon Lake. (Muskegon Chronicle photo)

Key partners (public and private): The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Muskegon County and the city of Muskegon.

Types of jobs created: Barge and dredge operators, truck drivers, biologists, chemists, toxicologists and general laborers.

This photo illustration shows the 46 acres of Muskegon Lake where contaminated sediments were removed and covered with clean sand.

Results and accomplishments: Removed 43,000 cubic yards of sediment contaminated with mercury and petroleum compounds from Muskegon Lake, which will reduce fish contaminants. The project cleaned up 46 areas of the bottom of Muskegon Lake, a popular fishing and boating lake in west Michigan.

Web site:

Originally Published: May 22, 2012