A proposal to dispose of contaminated leachate from the exclusive Bay Harbor Resort in an underground injection well 30 miles away is causing concern among area residents. The proposal calls for locating the injection well in the small rural community of Alba, MI. Friends of the Jordan River Watershed and Alba citizens are raising many questions and demanding answers.
CMS Energy, the landowner responsible for the cleanup at the Bay Harbor Resort, has been working on the proposal with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality since October 2006. But residents only learned about the proposal this April. The Friends of the Jordan River Watershed requested a 30-day extension for public input from both agencies. At the time of printing, the extension for comments was granted by the EPA with a new deadline of July 27.
There was overwhelming concern expressed at the June 13, 2007 Alba public hearing, demonstrating the need to take additional time to ensure the proper information has been gathered, studies have been done, and that the people in the surrounding area are given time to fully understand the proposal and have their concerns addressed. Alba is a valuable groundwater recharge area for many area trout streams, and groundwater is a source of drinking water. The area’s geology, hundreds of shallow gas wells, and service as a groundwater source for many trout streams do not sound like ideal qualities for the location of an injection well to dispose of contaminated water.
John Richter, President of the Friends of the Jordan River, objects to the proposal. “The Michigan State University professors we are working with on another project have identified the Alba area as a primary source of groundwater for the Jordan River. Any contamination of the groundwater from this injection well would ultimately harm the Jordan River,” stated Richter.
According to Dr. Warren Wood of the MSU Geological Sciences Department,“There must be hundreds or thousands of oil and gas wells in the area, any one of which could leak if the hydrostatic pressure is increased by injection of fluids.” The well would be 2,100 feet deep, approximately 900 feet deeper than drinking wells are at the area.
What is the best way to deal with the contamination from Bay Harbor? This debate is ongoing, but certainly there are valid alternatives worthy of further consideration. Among the many questions that arise – does it make sense to move the contamination from one community to another, potentially impacting two places? Is it fair? Will this approach solve the problem or simply transfer it?
The Friends of the Jordan River Watershed are working with others to document citizens’ concerns, collect information on the risks and alternatives, and facilitate public input within the 30-day extension period.
For more information or to send comments go the Friends of the Jordan River Watershed website, www.friendsofthejordan.org.