A request for a pollution exception by the Bradford White Company in Middleville being considered by the DEQ has been dropped by the company in response to written comments to the state agency. As first reported by the Grand Rapids Press, company officials said they wanted time to listen to employees, residents and others interested in the Thornapple River,
David Wierzbicki, project manager, DEQ Remediation and Redevelopment Division in Grand Rapids in an interview two weeks ago said the DEQ was getting “a good number” of written comments by the public.
Wierzbicki said then he had been working on the issue with Bradford White for quite some time. “There is no actual dumping of active chemicals into the Thornapple River to the best of our knowledge,” he said. Bradford White was asking for a mixing zone in the river that would dilute groundwater contaminatoin when it went into the river.
Chemicals in two ground water plumes are flowing west and south from the plant toward the river; monitoring wells are between the plumes and the river. A routine schedule of sampling the monitoring wells showed contamination near the river,” Wierzbicki said.
“We have been studying this quite a while to find out what and where it is and at what levels, and whether there is a risk to the public.”
The contamination is thought to originally have come from two concrete tanks 50 feet apart that held degreasing chemicals used to clean metal used in water heaters.
If, when or how the leakage may have occurred from one or both tanks is unknown; use of the chemicals stopped around 1985, he said.
He said trichloroethylene, which breaks down into ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride, are the volatile organic compounds identified as carcinogens, or probable carcinogens, by the EPA that were used as degreaser solvents in the past, They are no longer in use.
The contamination was believed to first been discovered under the water heater plant in the late eighties or early nineties. Remediation started in 2004 and continuing today, has removed 90 percent of the contamination, Wierzbicki said.
If levels of contamination detected in the monitoring wells as it approaches or enters the river do not exceed the calculated mixing zone based criteria, it is determined that there is no risk to the public and environment, he said in the interview.
“The mixing zone is the area where the groundwater mixes with river water at the bottom the river. The flow rate of groundwater going into the river compared to the flow rate of the river itself is used to calculate the mixing zone base criteria that will be protective of public health, the environment and for all the uses of the river,” he said.
“Bradford White has been very cooperative with me for the entire time to do with the work they need to do to comply with state statutes. It’s on ongoing process, I think most people understand that,” he said then.