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in its most natural state for the use of the public,
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news,Sulfide Mining,Water Quality

Road Work on County Road AAA Polluting Wetland

29 Jul , 2014  

Over the past two weeks, Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve has been investigating and documenting a serious water quality concern caused by the road construction on the County Road AAA. A spring that feeds the East Branch of the Salmon Trout River had been ruptured during construction activities and it is releasing spring water into construction areas. The eruption of water caused significant and severe runoff of sediment into the stream. From there, the sediment was transported into a wetland downstream. After the wetland reached its capacity, the sediment continued downstream into the East branch of the Salmon Trout River.

Massive releases of sediment can cause damage to local streams and wetlands. Suspended sediment can clog the gills of native trout, increase mortality of aquatic insects that the trout feed on, and fill in the deep holes and undercut banks where trout seek refuge. In addition, wetlands that have experienced this level of sedimentation can no longer function as a “filter” that keeps streams healthy.

Suspended sediment in the East Branch of the Salmon Trout River due to the road construction issue.

Suspended sediment in the East Branch of the Salmon Trout River due to the road construction issue.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Michigan Department of Natural Resources were notified of the situation and they have visited the site. Improved erosion control measures were installed at their request. However, the damage is done and substantial amounts of sediment are still moving through the waterway. The once crystal clear water still looks like chocolate milk even after additional erosion control measures have been installed.

The Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve is sending a formal complaint letter to MDEQ, urging them to issue a citation for polluting the water. We are also urging the agency to require the implementation of a mitigation plan to clean up the site. At this time, we are also informing the EPA and tribal entities of the incident.

YDWP will continue to monitor the site conditions and collect water samples. Also, we have conductivity loggers on this stretch of river which continuously collect measurements every 30 minutes. We can compare the measurements recorded over the past week during the incident to our previous year’s data to conclude water quality impacts.

This incident closely follows a different incident on the Mulligan Creek which the Yellow Dog RIVERKEEPER ® discovered in early July. A wetland had been filled in with trees and permit conditions had been violated. The DEQ has also been informed of this issue and has visited the site.

Sediment pollution in the wetland downstream from the spring that has been ruptured.

Sediment pollution in the wetland downstream from the spring that has been ruptured.


These issues, without enforcement, can lead to cumulative stress on our local waterways. Help keep this work up by donating today:

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8 Responses

  1. David Allen says:

    I noticed quite a bit of silt on 7/14; but the water was only slightly turbid. Readings were typical of past data, so I was not too concerned. Foolish me. This is really ugly.

  2. Richard Sloat says:

    Someone overseeing the construction of the Triple A should have notified the DEQ immediately and the same for the destruction of the Mulligan Creek area.

    I’m totally dismayed with both situations. I guess without more complaints from the public the DEQ may be slow to respond with a statement.

    Thanks for notifying the EPA. I think the EPA sould reexamine the DEQ’s certification to handle such matters.

    That would set the politicians on another rant concerning the EPA.

    I think I’ll forward the article to Representative Dianda.

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  4. Paul Townsend says:

    This damage is a direct result of Kennecott/Rio Tinto’s failure to provide an Environmental Impact Assessment of the potentially affected area and of the haul road, which is part of the mining area, as required by Part 632, and MDEQ’s granting the mining permit without requiring one. This is exactly what the statute was designed to prevent, and both the mining company and MDEQ violated their obligations under the statute. Kennecott/Rio Tinto claimed there would be no possibility for adverse impacts beyond its fence line, which was preposterous, and MDEQ let them get away with that.

  5. Mindy Otto says:

    Dear David, Rich and Paul,
    We really appreciate your responses. YDWP is working on strategic handling of this type of situation, now, and in the future. Unfortunately, we are anticipating more instances of this sort. Your support is much appreciated as we navigate our options.

  6. Paul Schumacher says:

    I understood from a conversation with a former Rio Tinto geologist that the mining company has nothing to do with the AAA road construction. It is all done by the Marquette County Road Commission.

  7. Jim and Nancy Haun says:

    On July 31 we were surprised to see a road closed sign on the bridge crossing the Yellowdog on the Burma Trail aka snowmobile trail 5. A logging truck was parked there with no-one in sight. We decided to investigate and were shocked at the carnage to the once beautiful pristine Trail. The further we traveled the more dug up the road was-making us glad we were in our ATV- and trees carelessly cut and shoved to the side. As we started the climb we wondered at the careless ditching on both sides of the road and commented that one good rain would make this road impassable and much degradation to wetlands would occur. AS we continued on I took photos and a video of an especially deplorable culvert crossing that would allow drainage to go directly into Mulligan Creek! The DEQ green posting stated the work was permitted to Plum Creek Logging from L’anse Michigan.

  8. Mindy Otto says:

    Hi Jim and Nancy,
    Thanks for stating your concerns. Yellow Dog has been speaking with the DEQ Supervisors about this project. We have also sent a letter to the department stating our concerns and urging the DEQ to issue a citation to the company. We have not yet received a response but we do know that they got the letter. YDWP will be following the issue and reporting back to the public.

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