Ruddiman Creek Watershed Public Health Consultation Released

July 17, 2001

The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) has released the draft Public Health Consultation for the Ruddiman Creek watershed for public comment. The consultation has found that sediments in Ruddiman Pond, and the north and west branches of Ruddiman Creek pose no apparent public health hazard. However, sediments in the main branch of Ruddiman Creek, particularly the area between Glenside Avenue and Barclay Road, are contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and lead. These contaminants could pose potential risks for children playing in and around the creek, but additional information on concentrations of these contaminants in the creek is needed before it can be determined if there is a public health concern.

The Ruddiman Creek watershed covers approximately 5.6 square miles in Muskegon County. The west, north and main branches of Ruddiman creek flow through areas of dense residential development. The main branch of the creek is located less than 100 feet from several apartment complexes and the Glenside Elementary School. The three branches of the creek flow into Ruddiman Pond, which is located adjacent to McGraft Park, a popular suburban park. Area residents, including children, fish and play in and around the creek branches and in the pond.

In October 2000, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), Surface Water Quality Division, in cooperation with the Army Corps of Engineers, completed a Phase II environmental investigation of Ruddiman Creek under the Corps' Great Lakes Remedial Action Plan technical assistance program. The objective was a preliminary assessment of the nature and extent of impacts to the watershed. Fifty-one locations were sampled throughout the watershed, including locations in the main, west and north branches of Ruddiman Creek, and Ruddiman Pond. The MDEQ has determined that contaminants detected in the Ruddiman Creek watershed can be toxic to animals that live in the creek and pond sediments.

In October 2000, the MDEQ asked the MDCH to investigate the human health effects of exposure to the contaminated sediments in the Ruddiman Creek watershed. This draft Public Health Consultation is a result of the Department of Community Health findings and makes recommendations for future actions to investigate and address potential public health concerns.

The Department of Community Health recommends additional sampling to further characterize the contamination in sediments in the main branch of the creek and sampling and analysis of fish in the watershed. The MDEQ is currently conducting additional sampling of sediments, surface water and fish throughout the watershed. The MDCH will evaluate this information when it becomes available and will revise the Public Health Consultation as appropriate to protect public health.

Until contaminant levels and the extent of contamination can be fully determined, the MDCH recommends posting warning signs in areas of the main branch of the creek where children are likely to play. The Muskegon Lake Remedial Action Plan Public Advisory Council, Ruddiman Creek Task Force is also strongly encouraged to continue its public education efforts at the Glenside Elementary School and the Department of Community Health is available to provide assistance in these efforts if requested.

The Department of Community Health welcomes further public comment on the Public Health Consultation and remains interested in new information regarding the site. Copies of the Public Health Consultation are available in Muskegon at the Hackley Public Library at 316 West Webster Avenue and at the Muskegon Community College Library at 221 South Quarterline Road for public review.

Information and comments should be addressed to the Michigan Department of Community Health, Division of Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology, 3423 North Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 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 17, 2001. 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 Ruddiman Creek Watershed under a cooperative agreement with the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Information concerning the human health effects of exposure to PCBs and lead can be found on the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) web page at http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaq.html.