Morrow Dam Drawdown Broke Several Laws, EGLE Finds

Jul 14, 2020

The Morrow Lake reservoir in June 2020. Exposed sediment is visible to the left.
Credit Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

The state says a company that runs a dam near Comstock must try to contain sediment that’s pouring into the Kalamazoo River, in violation of environmental regulations. As WMUK reported last month, silt has been streaming out of Morrow Lake since Eagle Creek Renewable Energy lowered the reservoir last year to make repairs on Morrow Dam.

The muck has clouded the river, threatening areas where fish spawn (the eggs can’t survive under a blanket of sediment) as well as mussel beds. It has piled up near the banks and overspilled them at times. The silt might have disturbed contaminants that had settled into the reservoir and the river bed, and the nutrients it has washed into the river might lead to algae blooms, Western Michigan University biologist Devin Bloom told WMUK last month.

In a violation notice that the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy sent to Eagle Creek last week, it ordered the company to take steps to contain the sediment, including seeding exposed mud flats on Morrow Lake to stop erosion. Eagle Creek must also test surface water in the Kalamazoo River for PCBs and oil.

“While we do have like a 10 day and a 30 day turnaround for a number of items in the letter, it’s our hope and I think it’s their plan to start moving on some of those items immediately,” Kyle Alexander of EGLE’s Kalamazoo office Water Resouces Division told WMUK.

Alexander said the state doesn’t know if the silt has stirred up contaminants from old paper plants as well as the 2010 oil spill. “But again, given the location of the dam and its proximity to both the Superfund site and the Enbridge oil spill, that’s why we would ask them to test for both of those,” he said.

Alexander added that the agency would consider whether to fine the company later, “really after we first address these more immediate concerns that were kind of laid out in the notice.”

EGLE has said that Eagle Creek began lowering the water on Morrow Lake without the state's knowledge. In the violation letter, the agency said the drawdown broke three parts of the state’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.

EGLE Order to EGRE for Morrow Dam by anlyzstrlz on Scribd