Environmental concerns at Westren Brook in SW Marquette

STORY UPDATE
Sunday, June 16, 2019 (EDT) 6:35 PM — The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) is planning to survey and assess the area Monday.

Representatives notified the City of Marquette today and asked them to join. Other EGLE departments (Water Resource Division and Remediation and Redevelopment Division) have been notified and sampling will be set up in the next two weeks.

EGLE recommends when discovering concerns like this to contact the Michigan Pollution State EGLE (PEAS) Hotline at 800-292-4706.

Since notifying the appropriate office, I have not yet heard response from the City of Marquette.


MARQUETTE, Mich. — After being tipped off by a concerned citizen and former landfill engineer that the old capped-off dump site in south west Marquette was leaking possible contaminates into the ground water, Tony Ghiringhelli wanted me to tour the property and see for myself.

What we saw was concerning.

[Source: Water Encyclopedia]

I am not an environmental engineer, and there’s a lot I admittedly do not know, but legitimate questions have been raised by informed citizens. Is the old dump site capped off properly and according to regulation? Our source says they have deep concerns it is not. Is the orange color of this stream natural? Should the water have petrol rainbow-colored reflection? What is inside these full old barrels?

At the citizen’s request, we trudged through the woods this afternoon to investigate and take photos. We saw old rusting chemical barrels discarded in the woods, oil drums, hundreds of industrial tires, orange sludge, and a reflective rainbow-color film covering the stream water.

We want respectful but firm public exposure to attain real answers. We want to be assured we’re testing the water according to regulation, or, at the very least, are aware of and assessing the apparent problem. My ultimate hope is this is nothing beyond the normal ugly consequences of capping a dump site. We’d then like to be equipped with more information to educate citizens on the situation, and how we can do better.

Less than a mile from this location, children are at play outside Marquette family homes. People regularly walk their dogs on top of this site, maybe unaware of the situation downstream.

We hope to arouse the need for the public release of water testing and have municipal powers — the City of Marquette, the D.E.Q. — answer questions. Is this ‘normal’? Should it be? What are the impacts? Can further clean-up be done? For what chemicals can we test to ensure this is not contaminating Lake Superior, or our ground and drinking water?

My biggest concern was the rainbow colored film coming off a pile of oil barrels directly into Westren Brook, just off Pioneer Road. Westren flows through South Marquette merging with Orianna Brook and into Quarry Pond. Ultimately, it travels into Lake Superior. Is the water being treated? What chemicals, if any, are being exposed into the environment?

It’s been about a month since I learned of this site. At this point in my understanding, I am compelled to ask very public questions, and patiently await important answers. The citizen who tipped off Tony and me said they’ve been receiving significant resistance from the City about their concerns for years, an unfortunate process my campaign for Marquette City Commission hopes to eliminate.

We need to address concerns of our constituency with attentive respect and engagement, especially when they can be as easily substantiated as this. I am eager to listen, followup, and independently investigate. After careful consideration, I believe this deserves a response.

If anyone can supply an independent unbiased expert environmental opinion, please e-mail me.