Ladyfisher, and all other interested parties:

The problem started perhaps as long as 10 years ago, when Shell oil had ongoing leakage at the Hayes 22 Plant, which began leaching BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, xylene) into the aquifer.

However, it did not become public knowledge until a couple of years ago. Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality was not required to notify nearby property owners about the spill, and neither was the polluting company. So, they did not.

Shell Oil caused this contamination, but was not fined for damaging the environment as there was no evidence of criminal intent.

Eventually, the groundwater contamination polluted the wells of two property owners in the Wilderness Valey residential community where the Hayes 22 facility is located.

Shell's response was to buy out the two property owners and the contamination continued.

The plume continues to spread. It was last reported as 2,700 feet long, 900 feet wide at the base beneath the plant, 500 feet wide at the tip, and is 50 feet deep.

This groundwater travels in a southwesterly direction from the plant at 200 feet per year. The plume travels in the same direction, but less than 200 feet per year due to natural ground filtration materials. That means it gets 6 inches closer to the Manistee every day.

The plume currently threatens six more property owners with contaminated water.

Furthermore, the direction of the plume's migration is carrying it toward Frenchman's Creek, which is a major tributary to the Manistee River near the headwaters of this world-class trout stream.

Merit Energy Corp., which bought the facility from Shell and assumed responsibility for the cleanup, finally proposed to use a process called "air stripping" to cleanse the water of pollutants.

Merit subsequently received a permit from MDEQ to do so, and pump the treated water into Kolka Creek, presently a dry bed, that is a tributary of the famed AuSable River, which in turn flows into Lake Huron.

Because the proposal involved piping the treated water over state land, MDNR became involved because of surface-rights issues.

At that time, Steve Sendek, who's the area fisheries biologist for MDNR said "NO WAY--that water should not be transported out of the Manistee River watershed and dumped into the AuSable River watershed. Find a different solution to the problem."

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is when the issue became public knowledge and the **** hit the fan. In chunks!

The issue is open to public comment until Sept. 15. You may contact MDEG Geologist Janet Smigielski at

Thank you for your interest,
Capt. Tony Petrella