Cleanup costs of algae from Michigan lake worry homeowners

ST. CLAIR SHORES, Mich. — People who live along the shores of Lake St. Clair in southeastern Michigan are wondering how much it will cost them to clean up a sludge-like substance that recently washed up on their properties.

Tests of samples taken from one property in Macomb County showed the substance to be decaying algae containing E. coli bacteria, the county health department said in a release.

Health officials have said the algae presents “no imminent public health hazard.” But to vacuum the material up using a sanitary truck and then dispose it could cost about $10,000 per home, according to Ryan Siarkowski, the owner of Synergy Development Specialist.

It will cost more if a homeowner also removes the soil beneath the material, said Siarkowski, who noted that every house would be different.

Bill Morrison told the Detroit Free Press that he now has to determine how to get rid of the substance, which has crept into his backyard.

“We don’t have any solutions yet,” said Morrison, who along with his wife recently purchased their home in the city of St. Clair Shores. “It’s one more headache we don’t need.”

Macomb County Environmental Health Director Andrew Cox told the newspaper that the substance is very unlikely to be sewage and is “a biological material” that could be disposed of in the same way as grass clippings and yard waste.

Lake St. Clair feeds into the Detroit River and is part of the waterway linking lakes Huron and Erie. High water levels, wind and weather made conditions ripe for the greenish-blackish and stringy substance to wash up on shore, said Cox.

Cox said he doesn’t know what kind of algae is in the substance or the specific source of the E. coli, but that bacteria counts were below the reporting limit.

“It came from the lake. It’s natural material,” Cox said.

If the substance was raw sewage, the count would be “much, much higher,” he said.

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