Traverse City Record-Eagle


April 9, 2014

Crystal Lake 'sheen' contained

BEULAH — Crystal Lake’s pristine, aquamarine waters appeared to face a threat this week:

Residents reported an oily sheen snaking into the lake from Cold Creek, which flows into the lake.

Department of Environmental Quality officials believe an improperly permitted dredging project spread the sheen from a sediment basin in downtown Beulah into Crystal Lake.

The sheen, which they suspect is a petroleum-based liquid, poses no threat to health or the environment, officials said.

“The bottom line, environmentally speaking, is there’s no damage to the resource here,” said Brad Wurfel, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Nonetheless, locals were concerned on Sunday and Monday when they saw an oily sheen, accompanied by a petroleum smell, emanating from the creek that flows right into Crystal Lake.

“The quality of the lake is our primary resource here, and the first concern was what impact that could have,” said Dan Hook, the Village of Beulah’s president pro tem.

Absorbent booms were deployed to keep the spill from spreading, and by Tuesday morning the sheen and smell largely vanished. DEQ officials said the liquid was either hydraulic fluid or diesel fuel.

The Village of Beulah dredges the settlement pond every five or six years. The pond is designed to catch sediment before it flows into Crystal Lake.

BioTech Agronomics Inc., a Beulah-based company, was contracted to start the dredging last week. They were permitted to dredge mechanically, or basically by scooping sediment out of the pond. Instead, they used a hydraulic dredging system, which is like vacuuming the pond, Wurfel said.

A woman who picked up the phone at BioTech Agronomics said company officials would not comment.

Wurfel said the company probably opted to remove the silt hydraulically because water levels were too high to remove them mechanically without sediment spilling into the creek and subsequently the lake.

It’s possible the spill came from the dredge.

“We’ve been unable to determine whether it came from the hydraulic hose or whether they hit something,” said Greg Goudy, an environmental quality analyst at the DEQ who inspected the site.

The dredging has been postponed until BioTech Agronomics obtains the correct permit, Goudy said.

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