Hansen works to continue Zephyr cleanup efforts

LANSING—Sen. Goeff Hansen said today that he has received a strong commitment from the Snyder administration that the cleanup effort at the Zephyr site in Muskegon Township will continue in an effort to help protect area residents from enduring additional environmental problems.

Hansen, R-Hart, said up to $6 million has been secured for this vital project.

“It’s important to have detailed testing and mapping of the soil to determine where the sources of contamination are and begin the removal process,” Hansen said.  “I appreciate the governor and his team for listening to the concerns we outlined and making this cleanup a top priority.”

The Muskegon oil boom that began in the 1920s and employed an estimated 1,000 people at its peak has left an environmental catastrophe at the former Zephyr oil refinery site.  According to the 34th District lawmaker, the problems include pollution at Bear Lake, hazardous vapors, potential natural gas explosion and the possibility of contaminated drinking water.

“The former oil wells were not plugged under current acceptable standards and oil has moved up through loose soil into the surrounding groundwater and surface water,” Hansen said.  “Residential neighborhoods, churches and schools have been built on top of a significant number of abandoned wells.  This exposes residents to serious risks such as health problems, fires and explosions.”

Since 2000 the Department of Environmental Quality has been treating the site in a gradual, long-term, state-funded groundwater cleanup.  But in early 2011, the DEQ turned off more than half of the Zephyr’s 65 recovery wells due to budget cutbacks and other complications.

“Because of budget constraints, there was a risk that the entire treatment effort might end,” Hansen said.  “Such an outcome remains undesirable.  With additional funding, we can act swiftly to stop toxic-petroleum contaminates from moving into the Muskegon River, Bear Creek and residential soil.  The quality of life and economic well-being for area residents depends on us remaining diligent.”