MDCH Finds Sediments In Muskegon County Creek Pose No Current Public Health Hazards

CONTACT: T.J. Bucholz (517) 241-2112
Agency: Communith Health

June 28, 2005

A Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) Draft Public Health Consultation has found that exposure to the sediments in Muskegon County's Ryerson Creek pose no apparent current public health hazard, officials said today.

However, the sediments might pose a future hazard in areas that get developed for residential housing, said Christina Rose Bush, MDCH toxicologist. Mercury in the creek's sediments might also be entering the water column and concentrating in fish in the creek or Muskegon Lake, into which Ryerson Creek flows, she said.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality requested assistance in evaluating public health implications of exposure to contaminants in the sediments in Ryerson Creek. The creek receives urban runoff from storm sewers. Leaking underground tanks and the City of Muskegon's former incinerator likely have contributed to the contamination.

MDCH reviewed the available environmental data and determined that concentrations of arsenic, lead, benzo(a)pyrene, and mercury needed further scrutiny. Likelihood of exposure was evaluated in areas with high concentrations. Currently, exposure to the contaminants is not expected to occur with sufficient frequency to cause adverse health effects. Some tested areas are slated for future residential development. Further sediment testing is necessary to determine if cleanup is required.

Mercury found in the sediments has the potential to enter the food chain and accumulate in fish. These fish could then be caught and eaten by local anglers, exposing these persons to potentially harmful levels of mercury. MDCH recommends that persons fishing in Ryerson Creek or Muskegon Lake adhere to the advice in the Michigan Family Fish Consumption Guide.

Areas of Ryerson Creek tend to flood during spring thaws and heavy rains. It is possible that sediments are transferred to floodplain soils, such as Green Acres Park near the Farmers Market, becoming more easily accessible to people living or playing near the creek. Floodplain soils around Farmers Market should be sampled for possible contamination.

The Department of Community Health invites the public to review and offer comments on the Public Health Consultation. Copies of the Public Health Consultation are available for public review at the Hackley Public Library, 316 W. Webster Avenue in Muskegon and the Norton Shores Branch of the Muskegon County Library, 705 Seminole in Norton Shores. The document is available electronically at under "Health Assessments and Related Documents."

Public comments and questions should be addressed to Christina Bush, Michigan Department of Community Health, Division of Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology, P.O. Box 30195, Lansing, Michigan 48909. People may also call the toll-free telephone number, 1-800-648-6942 (1-800-MI-TOXIC). Comments on the Public Health Consultation must be received by August 8, 2005. All comments received will be evaluated and considered and responses will be provided in the final version of the Consultation.

The Michigan Department of Community Health Division of Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology conducted the Public Health Consultation for the Ryerson Creek sediments under a cooperative agreement with the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Information concerning the human health effects of exposure to environmental contaminants can be found on the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) web page at