Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

September 1, 2013

Editorial: Officials must confirm cyanide plume findings

It’s downright miraculous. Or maybe just great good luck. Or maybe none of the above.

According to a company hired to monitor a cyanide-tainted groundwater plume beneath the city’s Warehouse District and adjacent to Grandview Parkway the plume has not migrated into West Bay.

“It’s close,” said Doug Kilmer, a senior geologist with AKT Peerless, which performed the tests. “We are not detecting (cyanide) in the bay.”

A map of the plume release by Grand Traverse County officials shows the cyanide coming right to the very edge of the bay. The same map shows that to the south, the plume actually curls around a bend of the Boardman River but apparently hasn’t gotten into the water there, either. Amazing.

And where the plume ends up matters. A lot.

When high levels of cyanide were found in groundwater at the Hotel Indigo construction site this summer, the discovery prompted an extensive scientific probe into whether cyanide is leaching into the bay.

Measurements of cyanide in the groundwater at the Indigo site measured as high as 1,200 parts per billion this summer, well above levels that would allow the water to be discharged to the city wastewater treatment plant.

The findings raised concerns about future development in the Warehouse District, as well as questions about the bay’s long-term health. The Grand Traverse County Brownfield Authority commissioned a scientific study on the groundwater, and hired AKT Peerless.

The company worked with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to draw new water samples and review historical water tests in the area; the company revealed its findings last week.

“It hasn’t migrated or spread that far,” AKT’s Kilmer said. “We are just not seeing it. The plume is probably actually diminishing in size over time.”

“Probably” can’t be the last word.

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