Pollution in Flint River to be cleaned up by Consumers Energy

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FLINT (WJRT) - (02/24/17) - Traffic near downtown Flint could be disrupted this summer if Consumers Energy gets the go-ahead to clean up polluted sediment in the Flint River.

More than 100 years ago, coal was converted to gas along the banks of the Flint River where the University of Michigan-Flint now stands. Coal tars can now be found in the river bed and in the riverbanks.

Last April, a barge was working its way around the river, taking soil samples. Consumers Energy contracted the sampling in conjunction with the Michigan DEQ and UM-Flint. Workers drilled into soil in the river bed. Lab tests show the levels of coal tar pollution are a concern. Now comes the clean up.

"Permits have been requested from the state of Michigan and no work can commence until those permits are granted," said Kevin Keane, Consumers Energy area manager.

That's expected to happen by the end of May or early June.

In 1877, natural gas was not readily available and a manufactured gas plant was on this site. Consumers Energy bought the plant in 1922 and used it until the late '20s. It was shut down then and finally dismantled in the 1950s.

"Much of the concern on this project stems from coal tars that migrated from the river bank into the river sediment. Consumers Energy will clean all of that up," Keane said.

The contaminated soil will be placed on Consumers Energy property near the Main Post Office, where it will be allowed to dry. It will then be taken to an approved landfill. The work on the river will extend from the Fifth Avenue Bridge to the Hamilton Dam. Some streets in the area will be closed during the project.

"Consumers Energy is working with the city of Flint and the University of Michigan-Flint to arrange alternate traffic patterns," Keane said.

A public meeting to discuss the Flint River dredging project will be held at the Flint Farmers Market on Thursday, March 9 from 6-8 p.m.

After the contaminated soil is removed, clean sand and rocks will be added to the river bed.

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