Manistee Co. Community Gets Answers From DEQ In Wake Of Oil Spill

“There’s still a lot of issues out there that need to be looked at.”

Concerns are still bubbling to the surface in the wake of an oil spill.

Many in Manistee County looking for answers got them Thursday night.

It began when Merit Energy discovered oil leaking into a wetland on 8 Mile Rd. near Onekama.

That was three months ago.

On Thursday, the DEQ met with the public for the first time since it happened.

“There’s a lot of concerned citizens that were here and I think everybody had some very good questions,” says Don Koon, who lives next to the oil spill area and was in the audience that night.

The DEQ and the Little Manistee River Watershed Conservation Council addressed a full Big Bear Sportsman’s Club in Kaleva, fronting concerns from those who live near the contaminated area.

“I don’t think you are monitoring wells both near and far enough,” one woman said.

“How will I know when it’s not good? Will you come around and tell me right away?” Questioned another.

About 50 barrels of oil spilled over roughly half an acre of land.

Senior DEQ geologist Bob Versical says the response was immediate.

“Since they initiated pumping, we had samples yesterday and we’ve seen  99.6 percent reduction in our influent pump groundwater concentrations so, again, very good progress,” Versical says.

However, he said it is slow going.

“They are pumping water out and they are running it through carbon filtration systems,” Versical says. “It’s highly-organic soil, which really binds up those petroleum compounds. It’s a degree of stickiness, if you will.”

Others worried their drinking water had been impacted.

“For all intents and purposes, I don’t think this is going to make it 200 feet from the release point,” Versical says.

According to the DEQ, that is not a concern.

Merit Energy was also reportedly invited to the meeting — but declined.

That didn’t sit well with locals like Don Koon.

“I anticipated that there were to be some people here that were very upset because of the lack of response from Merit Energy,” Koon says. “To me, they are responsible. I think they ought to be held accountable and I don’t want this swept under the rug.”

Merit also declined our attempts to reach out.

For now, the DEQ continues to monitor the area and many, including Koon, said they answered most of the public’s concerns.