KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Authorities in Kalamazoo are urging residents to stay off sediment deposits on the Kalamazoo River.
The sludge deposits are from lowering the river level and replacing the main spillway gates on the Morrow Dam in Comstock Township. When this happened, sediment washed from the reservoir down the river.
“The sediment deposits in the Kalamazoo River are incredibly dangerous and should be avoided at all costs,” KDPS Assistant Chief Matt Huber said in a news release Tuesday. “In some places, the deposits can be 10 feet deep, or more, and are like quick-sand. One wrong step could spell disaster.”
KDPS Sgt. Ryan Vosburg says the warning is being given in hopes it will prevent the need for any rescues with more people now using the river.
“We understand with the warmer weather coming, this is going to draw people to the Kalamazoo River. We just want people to be aware of the dangers,” Vosburg said.
The company that owns Morrow Dam, Eagle Creek Renewable Energy, estimates 115,000 cubic yards of sludge have coated an 8 mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River.
David Fox, the director of licensing and compliance for Eagle Creek, says the company is also urging caution and measures have been taken to protect people from the initial dredging site in Wenke Park.
“That dredging site is secured with construction, fencing and signage,” Fox said.
The Wenke Park project began at the beginning of March.
“The project is scheduled to take approximately six weeks from start to finish. We are on schedule,” Fox said.
Eagle Creek says it’s working with state and federal regulators on additional cleanup plans, which have not been announced.
Environmental groups say the sediment has devastated the fish population and the entire river ecosystem.
Eagle Creek says despite the concerns about chemicals in the sediment, an initial study of soil samples show the problem is with the mud itself.
“Relatively low levels of contaminants from old industrial activities, though we’ve seen no levels, no sample results, that indicate any risk to human health,” Fox said.
Local environmental organizations are calling for additional testing.
Fox says the sediment removal part of the project should be finished in a couple weeks.
Eagle Creek will then work on returning the dredging site back to its original state.