Cleaning up gasoline contamination in Torch Lake Village, Part III

Posted on March 10, 2010


I see that I omitted to post a copy of the February 18, 2010 Elk Rapids News story here on Torch Lake Views. Since a number of people are reading the first two parts here, I thought I’d better catch up. Parts I and II in the series described how gasoline got into the drinking water and what is being done to clean it up. This installment looks at the costs.

A question of money

There are over 7,000 facilities across the state where leaking petroleum products have contaminated the soil and water. In about half of those cases, as in the case of the gasoline leak in Torch Lake Village, there is no reasonable prospect of cleanup by the responsible party and the State of Michigan takes on the task. In Antrim County, the State acts in the person of Randy Rothe, an Environmental Quality Specialist with the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) Remediation and Redevelopment Division.

Every time you pump a gallon of gasoline into the tank of whatever you drive, seven-eighths of a penny goes into the State of Michigan’s Refined Petroleum Fund to clean up these “orphaned” contamination sites. The fund generates about $15 million per year, although that amount has been declining. People are driving less in more efficient vehicles, and gasoline sales are down. Rothe says that the legislation establishing the fund will “sunset” this year. If it is not renewed, there will be no earmarked State funds for cleanups like the one underway in Torch Lake. In fact, says Rothe, if the legislation is not renewed, the cleanup effort at Torch Lake Village will end in December.

Remediation of contaminated sites is an expensive proposition. Since 2000, the taxpayers of Michigan have spent or committed $828,431.61 to pay for sampling, monitoring, evaluation, reporting and cleanup at the Torch Lake Village site. That does not include approximately $9,600 per year in laboratory fees to analyze the quarterly samples. It does not include the cost of replacing contaminated residential wells in the village and at Bay Harbor Club.

Most of the money, more than $500,000, was spent back in 2000-2002, when monitoring wells were sunk in an area from the Day Park on Torch Lake to the Bay Harbor Club on Grand Traverse Bay. That final report was delivered in 2003. After that, funding for remediation of gasoline leaks dried up. Between 2003 and 2009 there was no action at the Torch Lake Village site. No monitoring. No cleanup.

In January, 2009, a new contract with AECOM began. The monitoring wells are being sampled again, and will be into 2011, at a cost of $285,000. The cost of the actual cleanup effort—the extraction and hauling away of approximately 30,000 gallons of raw gasoline and contaminated water over the course of 11 months—will amount to just over $35,000.

Later this month AECOM’s final report on 2009 monitoring activity at the site will arrive on Randy Rothe’s desk. The Elk Rapids News will summarize the findings of that report in the next installment of this series.


That was the end of Part III.  I now have a copy of the executive summary of the 2009 report, and have requested an opportunity to examine the entire report.  This is going to take some time, folks.  More later.

Oops–here are the links to the first two parts: