Soil From "Bare" Construction Site Washes Into Asylum Lake Preserve

Jun 28, 2019

A photo from June 20 shows water muddy with sediment at the Asylum Lake Preserve across from the BTR II site.
Credit Courtesy photo / Steve Keto

Conservationists in Kalamazoo are unhappy about erosion at a construction site that polluted a nature preserve in June and netted a Violation Notice from Michigan’s environmental agency.

Western Michigan University is building a second Business, Technology and Research Park in Oshtemo Township. During an exceptionally heavy rain June 20, sediment from BTR II washed into the Asylum Lake Preserve across the street. Pictures show wetlands in the Preserve running brown during the rainstorm.

“We are very concerned about this spill and what it says about the impact on the lake and the Preserve of development,” Asylum Lake Preservation Association Vice Chair Lauri Holmes told WMUK.

Western spokeswoman Paula Davis says the university has installed extensive anti-erosion protections to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“If you drive by the site today, there’s quite extensive erosion controls currently in place,” she said.

Sediment from the BTR site washes across Drake Road on June 20.
Credit Courtesy photo / Steve Keto

Davis added that county officials inspected the site before the storm. But on Friday, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy sent Western a Violation Notice. It found “deficiencies” in the site’s Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control or SESC plan and said Western must take “immediate action” to fix them.

“The violations identified in this Violation Notice are continuing due to the insufficient SESC plan,” the letter states.

In a report posted to EGLE’s permitting database Miwaters, inspector Janelle Hohm detailed what she saw at the site June 20.

June 28, 2019 EGLE Violation Notice for WMU BTR II by anlyzstrlz on Scribd

“The entire site was bare soil,” Hohm wrote. “Removal of vegetation should have been scheduled so that it would have taken place in stages. Site could not handle the large rain event due to lack of soil erosion control measures. The site was relying on sedimentation control measures such as silt fence and check dams, which were not sufficient.”

Davis acknowledged that Western received the Notice on Friday, calling it “a piece of useful information.”

“All of the structural remediation that is identified in the inspection report has already been addressed and was being addressed before we received the report,” she said.

A photo showing silt in the wetlands at the Asylum Lake Preserve June 20.
Credit Courtesy photo / Steve Keto

“We still need to file paper work with the relevant agencies,” Davis added.