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The Million Gallon Question... Polluted Water

When the developers of Bay Harbor Resort received the go-ahead to build a resort for the rich on top of an ancient mess of cement kiln dust, the DNR was in a "conundrum." The cement kiln dust had tested as inert, meaning that run-off water didn't pick up known toxins from the cement kiln dust, said Bob Wagner, the DEQ supervisor for the ongoing clean-up at Bay Harbor Resort. Yet, there were significant red flags. Arsenic-laden water was seeping from two of the piles (cited in a DNR memo of 12/14/94) and samples of cement kiln dust contained elevated levels of heavy metals. There was a Congressional report the year before, which raised serious concerns of the presence of dioxins and furans (among the most toxic of toxins) in kiln dust at 11 former cement production sites across the country. Critics allege that the DNR's decision to sign a covenant not to sue in 1994 was given too fast, with too little information. In retrospect, the developers could have saved themselves big headaches now. Now there's a plan to take a million gallons of tainted water each week from the contaminated site at Bay Harbor to a proposed injection well in Antrim County. The only problem is that the well is proposed in the heart of a watershed that feeds the prized Jordan River and three other rivers. "They are transferring their pollution problem to the Jordan Valley and the river watersheds out here. It's absurd," said Ray Bier, an activist and gallery owner.


When water runs over kiln dust, it turns into leachate-bleach-like water that contains trace amounts of heavy metals, including mercury, arsenic and lead. CMS Land Company has had to set up an elaborate shoreline pipe system to collect the tainted water. CMS neutralizes the leachate to a normal pH level and then trucks it to the Grand Traverse County Septage Plant, and to a commercial well sited near a trout stream in Johannesburg, a small town outside of Gaylord. The trips from Petoskey to Traverse City and Johannesburg are costly, so CMS wants to build a deep injection well outside of tiny Alba. Estimated savings would amount to $5 million a year...

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