In the 30 plus years that the Zephyr Oil Refinery was in business, tens of thousands of gallons of oil spilled from the refinery and soaked into the Muskegon wetlands that surround it. While the company officially closed its doors years ago, the logistical burden of cleaning up the mess continues today, and that responsibility falls on the Environmental Protection Agency and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Last night in Muskegon, officials from the EPA and DEQ announced they will begin site planning for the cleanup starting in the fall.
Charged with the aggressive removal of petroleum the DEQ is using in situ chemical oxidation, an environmental remediation technique that reduces the concentrations of contaminants to acceptable levels. DEQ’s Abigail Hendershott explains in simpler terms.
“It is going to actually break down the gasoline and heavier petroleum compounds that are sitting on top of the water tables, so we can get those broken down and actually start biodegrading them,” Hendershott said. “So we did have a pilot study, we had to try out this in situ chemical oxidation technology, it was successful, so that’s why we are going to be implementing it on a full scale for the 12 acres out there, to start hitting it hard.”
According to the DEQ, funding will come through the state of Michigan, while the EPA is funded by the Great Lakes Legacy Act. Hendershott said she estimates the next phase of the Zephyr site cleanup will take 18 to 24 months.