UPDATE: Clean-up at Sturgeon River officially complete

UPDATE: Wednesday, February 21st at 1:00 p.m.

Clean-up at the Sturgeon River Bridge has been completed, according to a press release from the Western U.P. Health Department.

Following the February 3rd accident, an estimated 4,000 gallons of gasoline and 1,500 gallons of diesel fuel were released onto the roadway, snow-covered bridge embankments, and frozen river below, necessitating an 18-day cleanup and restoration project involving the coordinated efforts of local, state, federal and private partners. Local officials credited the fast actions of first responders for limiting the spread of the fuel spill and minimizing environmental impacts.

“Considering the location of the spill in an environmentally sensitive area, it was great to see such a quick and coordinated response to a complex situation,” Houghton County Emergency Manager Chris Van Arsdale said. “In addition to environmental protection, public and worker safety was a priority for all parties throughout the work.”

Response agencies included Chassell Fire Department, Houghton County Office of Emergency Measures, Bootjack Fire and Rescue, Western Upper Peninsula Health Department (WUPHD), Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), local businesses and private environmental consultants.

During the course of the project, 6,200 tons of soil affected by the spill were removed and taken to a landfill, and 9,300 gallons of fuel-impacted water were pumped and taken off-site for treatment.

Following extensive soil removal, restoration of the bridge embankment was conducted under MDOT supervision using a combination of rock, soil and heavy-duty construction fabric, and a section of new guardrail was installed on the bridge. Adjacent yard and driveway areas were also restored with topsoil, mulch, grass seed, and gravel.

The public is advised that snowmobiling will not be allowed in the immediate vicinity because an area of open water will be maintained on the north side of the bridge through spring ice melt to enable monitoring and collection of any minor fuel sheen that may occur. A long-term environmental monitoring plan is under development to assess surface water quality in the lower Sturgeon River as well as groundwater quality. Local officials stressed the importance of protecting public health and the environment during the incident and into the future.

“Our local health department worked with the EPA, DEQ and environmental contractors to monitor air and water quality during the cleanup to advise the public and workers on matters of health and safety,” said WUPHD Health Officer Kate Beer. “It is the role of public health workers to inform the public, and advocate for their ongoing health and safety.”

Another response partner, DEQ Project Manager Amy Keranen, summed up the feelings of the project team as she reflected on the successful wrap-up of operations.

“This project has been an amazing example of federal, state, local and the private-sector partners addressing an emergency in very short order,” Keranen said. “Living in the quiet Keweenaw, we might think that things like this won’t happen around here. But this tanker spill presented an opportunity for us to see that locally we have the ability to conduct a top-notch environmental cleanup with local resources. Other than a specialized on-river crew from out of the area, all work on the project was completed by local companies and organizations from the Central and Western U.P.”

UPDATE: Tuesday, February 20th at 2:30 p.m.

All lanes of US-41 at the Sturgeon River Bridge have officially re-opened as of this afternoon, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Temporary lane closures were put in place in Chassell Township following a four-vehicle fatal accident on February 3rd. One of the vehicles involved in the accident was a tractor-semi carrying fuel.

It is estimated that more than 4,000 gallons of fuel were released onto the roadway and surrounding areas following the accident. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Western U.P. Health Department and various private contractors have been working on the clean-up for over three weeks.

UPDATE: Thursday, February 8th at 4:00 p.m.

Progress continues on cleanup work at the site of last Saturday’s accident and fuel release at the Sturgeon River Bridge on US-41.

An area of impacted ice has been removed adjacent to the bridge. No snowmobiling is allowed in the immediate vicinity of the bridge due to the presence of open water and cleanup equipment.

Environmental assessment has been conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and environmental consultants at 42 locations along the Sturgeon River between the spill site and the mouth. These assessment points extend downstream from the bridge to the mouths of both branches of the river into Pike Bay and Portage Lake. There have not been any detection of fuel at any of the downriver assessment locations.

Air quality monitoring and sampling has continued under EPA direction for the immediate area and adjacent homes. Air quality monitoring also is being done near stockpiled materials and the excavation and loading areas to verify that there are no health and safety concerns for the community and workers.

UPDATE: Tuesday, February 6th at 4:00 p.m.

Local, state, and federal officials and private contractors are coordinating cleanup and environmental monitoring at the Sturgeon River Bridge on US-41 south of Chassell, site of last Saturday’s four-vehicle accident. Cleanup crews are removing soil and snow impacted by the gasoline and diesel fuel release.

Air quality monitoring and sampling has been conducted under the direction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the immediate area and adjacent homes. Air quality monitoring also is being done near stockpiled snow and soil to verify that there are no immediate health and safety concerns for the community and workers.

Arrangements are being made to transport impacted materials off site for disposal so that the area can be back filled and guardrail replaced.

The health department also received the following statement from Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ):

“The DEQ has evaluated all municipal drinking water intakes in the vicinity and none are threatened by the release of petroleum products from the accident on US-41 near the Sturgeon River this past weekend.  The DEQ is working with the company’s consultant and the Western U.P. Health Department to evaluate potential impacts to individual water supply wells in the vicinity of the accident.” 

For more information regarding individual water wells, please contact WUPHD Environmental Health Director Tanya Rule at 906-482-7382, or by email at trule@wuphd.org.  For more information regarding community water supply intakes, please contact Bob London, DEQ Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance Division at (989)450-7834, or by email at londonr@michigan.gov.

More updates can be found at chassell.net.

CHASSELL TOWNSHIP — The cleanup of gasoline and diesel fuel is continuing near the Sturgeon River Bridge on US-41 at the site of Saturday’s four-vehicle accident. The removal of soil and snow that was impacted by the gasoline and diesel release has begun and work is expected to continue during the next week.

Environmental professionals are performing air monitoring at the site and in surrounding areas to ensure that air quality is safe for the public and workers. Samples are also being taken to monitor water quality.

State and federal environmental officials are on the scene, monitoring the work and assessing impacts to the environment. There are no immediate health and safety concerns for the community and the Chassell School.

The Western U. P. Health Department will continue to work with local, state, federal and private partners to monitor health and safety conditions.