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Friday, June 27,2014

Oil on the Grand River

Source of Thursday’s spill unknown; environmental official cites ongoing problem

by Todd A. Heywood
The booming to contain an oil spill just south of the entrance to the Brenke Fish Ladder in Lansing\'s Old Town. The oil sheen can clearly be seen bypassing the boom and heading directly for the waterfall over the dam. City Pulse/Todd Heywood

FRIDAY, June 27 — A minor oil spill found Thursday on the Grand River is being cleaned up today. The spill, literally feet from the Brenke Fish Ladder in Old Town, is being partially contained by absorbent booms, and workers are vacuuming the oil from the surface of the water.

At 3 p.m., the oil sheen — a rainbow color on the water surface, could be seen bypassing the area with booms and heading over the dam at the fish ladder. Friday afternoon, the smell of oil was still present as two environmental contractors, without protective gear, vacuumed the oil from the water. 

Brad Wurfel, spokesman for Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality, said the spill was discovered by a DEQ employee Thursday during routine evaluations related to the former Motorwheel plant on Saginaw. That employee contacted the city, which responded.

Wurfel said the issue has been ongoing and could be linked to one of the businesses in the area.

Julie Powers, executive director of the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council, said this is the fourth time she has been called down to the Brenke Fish Ladder because of an oil spill in the last year.

She said the consistency of the spill is always different and in differing volumes. She suspects the spills are the result of improper disposal of various chemicals into the city’s storm water drain system.

She wants the city to investigate more aggressively to identify the source, including sending a camera into the storm water drain that appears to be the source of the ongoing contamination.

City officials could not be reached for comment.

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