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DTE to start pollution cleanup in Ann Arbor this week

Starting today, DTE plans to bring in the heavy equipment needed for the pollution cleanup along the Huron River west of the Broadway Bridge in Ann Arbor.

Black, oily coal tar pollution has been underground for decades.

It was left behind by an old manufactured gas plant owned by the utility company. Two years ago regulators discovered the coal tar was getting into the river. Now, DTE plans to spend between $2-3 million digging it out.

First they will clear trees along the river, then the digging will start after Labor Day (tree clearing will likely start next week).

Shayne Wiesemann, an environmental engineer for DTE,  is heading up the Ann Arbor cleanup project.

He said people could notice smells during the cleanup. Smells left behind from their old manufactured gas plant, or MGP.

"These MGP residuals have a characteristic odor that smells a little bit like, uh, like creosote, so folks may smell that but we’ll be doing our best to minimize the odors,” said Wiesemann.

Napthalene is also underground, so a mothball-like odors might also be present. The company says air monitoring devices will be used to make sure levels in the air are safe. 

Wiesemann said once the polluted soil along the Huron River is excavated, they'll install a "cap" to prevent further pollution from reaching the river.

“And this cap is going to prevent any future contaminant migration, so we like to call it a belt and suspenders approach where we’re taking out the contaminated soil and then we’re putting on this cap to ensure future protection,” said Wiesemann.

Some pollution will still be left on the site after this project is finished around November. Wiesemann said they’ll wait to see how the city wants to use the site before any more clean-up is done.

Mark Brush was Michigan Radio’s Digital Media Director. He succumbed to a year-long battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, in March 2018. He was 49 years old.
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