The Pledge to Dredge: Current State of the Flint River

Walking through campus, everyone is noticing the hindrance to the William S. White building, leaving students to ask why the pedestrian bridge is blocked off.

The bridge is blocked due to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) dredging the Flint River of contamination. The DEQ is responsible for containing and cleaning areas where assistance is needed. According to Jim Innes, a municipal water quality scientist for the DEQ, the department helps protect 20% of the world’s freshwater supply, including 1,226 public beaches, 11,000 inland lakes, 76,000 miles of rivers and streams, and 65,000,000 acres of wetlands.

Working in partnership with local, regional, and state level departments, the DEQ works hard to preserve the future of Michigan’s fresh water sources–that’s why this dredging process is extremely imperative for the city of Flint, the river, and the citizens it affects.

Methods the department is using for the river are mechanical dredging and sediment capping. Innes explained how mechanical dredging involves the use of heavy equipment from the shoreline or off of a barge to drain a body of water. The contaminants are dug out and transferred to a de-watering tent and then put into a landfill.

Innes then explained how sentiment capping consists of placing a combination of sand, gravel, and rock on top of the contaminated sentiment in order to isolate the poly-chlorinated biphenyls so they don’t enter the water or food chain. These steps are timely and quite inconvenient for students that have classes in the White building, but the process is estimated to be done by October of 2018.

The river has had contamination problems far before news of the lead in the water. The Buick Automobile Plant in the 1930’s would pollute the river with oil and other contaminants. The water at one point was so full of cyanide and metals that there was barely any oxygen for fish in the river and a large sum died, according to Ryan Londrigan, a municipal water quality scientist for the DEQ.

In 1967, Flint transferred to having its water processed by Detroit after Flint was named as having the most polluted water by the Michigan Water Resources Commission. But in 2014, it was switched back for economical reasons, according to Londrigan. Now, after long-lasting, negative effects to community members, the river is finally starting to be taken care of.

“The river is being taken care of by our Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance Division and by Fall 2018 the pedestrian bridge will be demolished due to it’s infrastructure,” said Jim Innes, Municipal Water Quality Scientist for the DEQ. The DEQ will take out the dam as well and in place for the pedestrian bridge a pathway is going to be created stretching from the University Center to the White building.

By October, the contamination problem if not handled, will definitely have been controlled and the people of Flint will have a weight off of their shoulders. Budget for administrative assistance on campus.