EPA Officials Say There Is Little Hope For Expedited Saugatuck Harbor Cleanup Funding
The cry for early as possible cleanup of the Kalamazoo Harbor has fallen on deaf ears, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will “in no uncertain terms” not move the harbor to the top of the priority list from the current “Phase 5” level, meaning the last phase, Kalamazoo Lake Harbor Authority Board Chair Ken Trester announced Monday night.
The Michigan Waterways Commission in collaboration with the Kalamazoo Lake Harbor Authority Board and its consultant Bill Boik recently met with EPA officials at U.S. Rep. Fred Upton’s (R-St. Joseph) office in an effort to convince the federal agency to expedite Superfund cleanup of the Kalamazoo Harbor, plagued by chemicals coming from upstream paper mills years from years ago.
“They said their hands were tied, prevented (to change the cleanup schedule) by conditions governed by law,” said Trester.
He added that EPA representatives were not detailed in their answer, but Trester said he surmised that court settlements may be playing a role in the agency’s rigidity.
Representatives from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality were also present at the early June meeting.
“Our strategy now is, first, to reduce the sediment coming from upstream and continue to find ways to do maintenance dredging, looking for a place to contain those dredge spoils.
“It (the spoils facility) also needs to be close to the lake otherwise it is going to be expensive,” said Trester, who is also Saugatuck Mayor Pro-Tem.
The EPA announcement adds to an already ominous background for waterways cleanup efforts.
The huge budget cuts to the EPA being proposed in President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget plan - which calls for the elimination of the Great Lakes restoration funding - is expected to severely hamstring cities and towns looking to find funding to dredge and cleanup their waterways.
Launched in 2010, the restoration program provides state and local projects funding to clean up contaminated sediments, restore watersheds, combat invasive species and build green infrastructure.
The $300 million that until now is designated for Great Lakes cleanup programs for 2018 is part and parcel of the $2.6 billion the Trump administration wishes to ax from the EPA, drastically compromising the state of Michigan’s ability to monitor for pollutants in state water, i.e., sulfur dioxide, mercury and ozone in the air, etc., according to reports.
State efforts also include the clean up of “toxic hotspots” or Great Lakes Areas of Concern. While the Kalamazoo Harbor is not designated a “toxic hotspot,” Trester noted, “every dollar is essential and will eventually affect on our situation.”