AWRI Newsletter #52: April 2006

The environmental remediation project in Ruddiman Creek, a major tributary to Muskegon Lake (one of the Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes), is nearing its end point with all sediment removal activities estimated to be complete by May 2006. Over an 8-month period, 80,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment containing approximately 2,800 pounds of cadmium, 320 pounds of PCBs, 204,000 pounds of chromium, and 126,000 pounds of lead were removed. This dredge volume would fill a football field to a height of 80 ft.  Stream hydrology also was improved by the addition of a stormwater retention basin, braided channels, sinuosity, and riffle areas. Many AWRI scientists played important roles in the remediation by conducting the initial assessment of contaminated sediments in 1995, participating in the remedial design process, and representing the Muskegon Lake Public Advisory Council during the weekly project briefings. However, it was principally the work of Dr. Rick Rediske and his lab that provided the science-based findings to support the need for the remediation.

The Ruddiman Creek system contains a 21-acre lagoon with a city park, 34 acres of wetlands, and residential neighborhoods with public access to the water. Historical wastewater and stormwater discharges, improper hazardous waste disposal practices, and the input of contaminated groundwater have caused severe environmental contamination and the posting of human health advisories along the shoreline. The remediation of Ruddiman Creek is one of four projects currently funded under the Great Lakes Legacy Act. The project will cost almost $12 million, with 65% coming from the Great Lakes Legacy Act and the remainder being paid from the Clean Michigan Initiative.

With the completion of contaminated sediment removal, the project is moving to the site-restoration phase.  A variety of native trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, wildflowers, and grasses will be used to revegetate the impacted stream banks. In addition, submergent and emergent aquatic macrophytes will be planted in inundated areas. The establishment of native vegetation in the remediation area plus the hydrological improvements to the stream channel will provide a more stable and diverse ecosystem. Faculty and students are welcome to visit the site and observe the progress of restoration activities this summer and fall. Laurie Beth Nederveld, a GVSU Biology Master's Program student, is currently studying the response of the benthic invertebrate community to the remediation process. We encourage the involvement of additional GVSU students in the research and public education opportunities provided by this unique site. The success of the Ruddiman Creek remediation project depends on our continued stewardship of the resource. There is a wealth of information that can be learned from our study of the site and continued participation in its restoration.

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