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$16 million sediment cleanup at refinery site in Muskegon County

By Jon Mills/WZZM-TV • Oct 17, 2018 at 6:00 PM

MUSKEGON TWP. — The Zephyr Oil Refinery is long gone. But it's believed when the company was operating in Muskegon Township, it spilled 700,000 gallons of oil. Much of the contaminants including diesel fuel ended up in wetlands adjacent to the Muskegon River.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the completion of the $16 million sediment cleanup at the former Zephyr property on Holton Road.

During the cleanup, approximately 50,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment were excavated from wetlands and a former fire suppression ditch.

Some grading, seeding and planting are taking place in an effort to restore wildlife habitat.

"It's fantastic to get it out of the ground and get it away from where the wildlife live and where people want to recreate," said Sara Pearson of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Work was funded through a cost-sharing partnership with the state under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).

"We try to celebrate each success as it happens and not wait till the end so people understand what progress looks like," said Jon Allan, director of Michigan's Office of the Great Lakes.

The property's industrial history is similar to other sites in Muskegon County and around the Great Lakes. Polluted sites in many cases are right along rivers and lakes.

"Slowly, surely, steadily there's getting to be fewer of them," said Christopher Korleski, director of the EPA's Great Lakes National Program Office.

Someday, the work done at the former refinery could help remove Muskegon Lake from the EPA's Areas of Concern list.

"It's so hard to get it done, so many people have to do so much," Korleski said. "Everything from access agreements, to the contracts, design and planning, it's just a tremendous amount of human resources, effort and money, you have to celebrate."

Work continues at the upland portion of the Zephyr property where a separate project seeks to remove and clean contaminated groundwater before returning it back to the ground and eventually the river.

Total cleanup at the property will take another 5-10 years.

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