MDCH Releases Public Health Consultation For Bay Harbor Beach

Contact: T.J. Bucholz (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

April 19, 2005

A Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) public health consultation has found that high pH levels in puddled seep discharge water on a Bay Harbor beach pose a public health hazard.

High pH levels in cement kiln dust (CKD) seep discharge water were found on the shoreline and in near-shore surface water at the Bay Harbor Development and the Resort Township East Park – located along the southern shoreline of Little Traverse Bay west of the city of Petoskey, said Linda Dykema, manager of MDCH’s Toxicology and Response Section.

Large piles of CKD waste from a former cement manufacturing plant were disposed of in the area from about the 1920s to the 1980s. The cement plant has since closed; however, highly alkaline water leaching from the CKD waste piles is discharging to the beach and near shore water at a Bay Harbor private beach and at East Park.

The pH of some of the puddled seep discharge water found on the beach ranged from 11.5 to 13. People or pets who make direct contact with the puddles could experience irreversible damage to eyes, skin, and mucous membranes. Other areas of puddled leachate showed pH ranges of 9 to 11.5. Exposure to water at these pHs could result in irritation, dermatitis, or conjunctivitis.

MDCH recommends that people who own property along the beach and the general public be alerted to the contamination and the potential for health effects. People are advised not to make contact with puddles on the beach or near-shore surface water.

Access to the beach in areas where high pH levels have been found in puddled leachate and near shore surface water should be restricted, Dykema said. Further investigation is also recommended to identify any additional areas of concern.

MDCH has consulted with the Northwest Michigan Community Health Agency and concurs with the public health advisories issued for the East Park and Bay Harbor CKD discharge areas. Recommendations found in the Public Health Consultation also support further investigations being conducted in these areas by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Copies of the Public Health Consultation for the Bay Harbor Cement Kiln Dust Seep Discharge are available at the Northwest Michigan Community Health Agency, located at 220 W. Garfield St., Charlevoix. The consultation may also be found at the Michigan Department of Community Health website at http://www.michigan.gov/mdch-toxics or by calling toll free 1-800-648-6942.

For additional information, please contact Linda D, Dykema (dykemal@michigan.gov) or Brendan Boyle (boyleb@michigan.gov), Michigan Department of Community Health, Division of Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology, 3423 North Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Lansing, MI 48906. You may also call the toll-free telephone number, 1-800-648-6942 (1-800-MI-TOXIC).