Removing Toxic Mud in Newburgh Lake in Livonia, Mich., Paves Way for Healthy Fishery

Project Summary: A 1998 sediment cleanup in Newburgh Lake, an impoundment in the Rouge River, removed 544,000 tons of toxic mud and restored a healthy fishery.

Project name: Newburgh Lake cleanup.

Location: Livonia, a suburb of Detroit.

Description:

The Rouge River was once a vibrant waterway that provided a variety of uses to people, plants, animals, and insects. Newburgh Lake was created in the 1930s as part of Henry Ford’s “Village Industries” on the Rouge River. Over the course of 60 years, contaminated sediments accumulated in the impoundment. During routine fish monitoring in 1988, state officials found

Sunrise on Newburgh Lake. The lake was contaminated with PCBs making the fish unsafe to eat until actions were taken to clean the lake and restock the fish. Fishing is now safe, and popular, on Newburgh Lake.

Sunrise on Newburgh Lake. The lake was contaminated with PCBs making the fish unsafe to eat until actions were taken to clean the lake and restock the fish. Fishing is now safe, and popular, on Newburgh Lake.

high concentrations of PCBs in fish. Those officials identified a polluted stormwater ditch, where an industry discharged wastewater, as the source of the contaminants.

The PCBs settled in sediments in Newburgh Lake and polluted the lake’s food chain, making fish unsafe to eat. A cleanup project removed 400,000 cubic yards of sediments, containing 3,400 pounds of PCBs and other toxic compounds, from the lake. That cleanup, coupled with an intentional fish kill that eliminated 28,000 pounds of contaminated fish, brought about a 90 percent reduction in fish contaminants. Crews also restored 10 acres of critical fish habitat in the impoundment, which helped the fishery recover.

Approximate cost of project: $11.8 million.

Resource challenge addressed:

Toxic lake bottom sediments were contaminating fish, which posed a health threat to people who ate the tainted fish.

Key partners (public and private):

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Wayne County Water Resource Commissioner’s office, Friends of the Rouge.

Types of jobs created:

Dredgers, barge operators, truck drivers, chemists and biologists.

Results and accomplishments:

The project reduced PCB concentrations in fish by 90 percent. Coupled with the restoration of fish habitat, the cleanup resurrected the once-popular fishery in Newburgh Lake, which is located in a heavily populated urban area. The cleanup also contributed to the larger effort to improve water quality and restore fish and wildlife habitat in the Rouge River, which is a Great Lakes Area of Concern.

Web site: http://www.therouge.org

Originally Published: October 10, 2011

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