TRAVERSE CITY -- Another phase is set to begin in a lengthy cleanup effort near the Cone Drive Operations plant along Boardman Lake.

The state Department of Environmental Quality approved plans to remove hundreds of yards of contaminated sediment along Boardman Lake's western shoreline, the result of decades-old contamination at the gear plant owned by Textron Inc.

"We've been working with the company for several years to rectify problems that were the result of dumping in a pit behind the (factory)," said Steve Cunningham, an environmental quality specialist at DEQ's Cadillac office. "It's one of the components of a cleanup approach for the whole facility."

Removing contaminated lake sediment is the next step in an effort launched more than 10 years ago, after the early-'70s discovery of a groundwater plume of oil and industrial solvents.

The Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council and Traverse City commission in 2001 filed a lawsuit against Cone Drive/Textron over its cleanup plan.

Greg Simpson, senior project manager from Textron's Environmental Health and Safety Group, said contaminated sediments will be dredged from the lake and trucked to a landfill. Between 700 and 800 cubic yards of sediment will be excavated.

The company is seeking bids for the work, and Simpson expects the project will be under way by late July or early August. He estimated dredging costs at $300,000 to $400,000.

Textron consultants for several years operated a "sparging" system designed to clean contaminated groundwater. That process involves injecting air directly into the groundwater, breaking down contaminates into harmless compounds.

NMEAC officials said they're pleased Textron will remove a large amount of contaminated lake bottom. NMEAC representatives met with Textron for updates and praised the company for keeping local environmentalists in the loop.

"They are removing what they consider and what we consider to be all of (the contaminated sediment)," said John Nelson, a member of NMEAC and baykeeper for the Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay. "They went along with the option we favored."

Once contaminated soils are removed, Simpson said the final step will be to create a site-wide groundwater monitoring plan.

"We're certainly making progress," Simpson said. "It's been a long process, but we're getting near the end."

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