Renew Harbor Island





Who is Involved in Renew Harbor Island?

The City of Grand Haven is leader the renew Harbor Island Project. This project also is being supported by a team of partners and consultants, including:

  • Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE)
  • Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS)
  • Community Advisory Group
  • HDR – Consultant
What is Coal Ash or CCR?

The process of burning coal to produce steam and generate electricity leaves behind a byproduct referred to as “coal ash”, “coal combustion residuals”, or “CCR.”

What is Polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS)?

PFAS is short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. PFAS are a diverse group of human-made chemicals used in a wide range of consumer, industrial products, and firefighting foam. PFAS were detected at the former JB Sims power plant.

Why did the plans for the former JB Sims Plant change?

The plans to renovate the JB Sims Plant site into mixed-use development were paused because the City needs to complete further environmental investigations, and clean up the property before it can determine an appropriate future use for the property. The City will keep this website updated as the environmental investigation and clean up progresses, and will provide the public opportunities to engage with us regarding potential future uses of the Island.

Has the City received notice of a violation for this project?

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) issued an Enforcement Notice to the Grand Haven Board of Power and Light that allege several regulatory violations concerning coal ash located at the former JB Sims power plant. The City of Grand Haven is working closely with EGLE to address the alleged violations and to properly cleanup the property. PFAS chemicals were discovered on the property last year. Therefore, the City is addressing both the coal ash and PFAS at the same time in a holistic approach. The website will continue to provide updates on the project and the negotiations with EGLE.

How can I learn more or stay involved in this effort?

This website is a great place to start. Our goal is to keep this website updated with project information and resources, as well as opportunities for public engagement and input. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter for project updates.

How is the city communicating this information?

Outside of the website and City Council meetings, the City of Grand Haven will be communicating via newsletters quarterly, or as information becomes more readily available. Part of communications will include sharing of any delays in the process and sample results received.

What could delay communications?

There are times when things may seem silent. During those times, we may be awaiting permits, or no sample results have come in. We will work to communicate that ahead of time.

Is the water in the public restrooms safe?

The water in the public restrooms on the island are sourced from a separate location and not related to the water/contamination on Harbor Island.

Are the soccer fields in the contaminated area?

There are a total of 4 Coal Combustion Residual (CCR) background wells in the soccer fields.  Those wells were also been sampled for PFAS.  Samples results have indicated levels above drinking water standards.  However, those results present no unreasonable exposure to those utilizing the soccer fields.

How do we know we are using best practices for Harbor Island clean up?

CCR and PFAS have federal and state regulations that must be followed. For CCR, the Federal CCR rule and The Michigan Part 115 (established regulations for EPA) guide the work. EGLE also has requirements and safety measures in place for PFAS. When it comes to remediation and clean up, HDR also has remediation practice groups that meet monthly and look at projects and results to further best practices.

Is the park/bike path closed to public access?

The north path, toward boat launch are open. Linear Park is closed due to high water erosion while city seeks funds to repair that impact.

What best practices can the public participate in after visiting Harbor Island to support health and safety?

Washing hands or showering is always a safe and good practice, particularly when skin has come into contact with contaminated groundwater or soil.

While we are testing and monitoring Harbor Island, is the ground water and river water stable enough so the contamination will not spread or get any worse? In other words, is the problem contained as we clean it up?

Our work is in part helping us to determine this in full. However, we don’t have any belief that it is
migrating into the river. To confirm our belief, we are collecting surface water samples as well throughout the process. Additionally, a study on the Grand River water contaminants was conducted several years ago, so there is a history that will allow us to compare our results.

Are any of the contamination problems on Harbor Island airborne?

CCR does have an airborne component, but only if the area is disturbed. In its current state, it is not airborne, and the City of Grand Haven has practices in place that keeps the area in its current condition.

Are some seasons riskier than others – i.e. summer heat, fall wind, winter snow base?

There is no research that indicates seasonal conditions have any impact on risk.

As water levels are now lower, how does that help or hinder the cleanup and future use?

One of the challenges of the site is the water level. Right now, it won’t hinder collecting the data, but could play a bigger part when we look at remediation options. It’s important for us to understand the levels to help us through the process.

What is the funding process to do the clean up? Where will the money come from?

We are always thinking of this, but we first need to have a remediation plan to understand the costs. We will continue to look internally and work with non-profits and elected officials to remain on their radar and seek their support when the time comes.

What is the approval process to move cleanup tasks forward?

Grand Haven must take things forward to the Council and, in some cases, the Board of Light and Power. We must also always be considering EPA and EGLE requirements and steps.

How can the public help with funding?

Let your local elected officials know that Harbor Island matters to you! Stay connected or get engaged with the City of Grand Haven and continue to stay informed through events and website like this.

How are you engaging legislators and elected officials?

We have hosted field trips with legislators, including Senator Peter’s office, and will continue to engage with them and other non-profits as we seek funding and grant opportunities. We know that the budget cycle for many institutions can be up to two years long, so we are working to address that as early on as we can, knowing that we can’t fully seek funding until we understand the scope of the remediation work.