U.S. EPA RAP Liaison:
- Stage II RAP (PDF) (16 pp, 212 K)
Several beneficial use impairments in the White Lake Area of Concern have been restored in the past few years. Most recently, the restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption were lifted in February 2013. The degradation of benthos, eutrophication or undesirable algae, and restrictions on drinking water, taste or odor impairments were removed in 2012. The first beneficial use impairment, restrictions on dredging activities, was removed in September 2011. Because of these successes, White Lake is on track to become an Area of Recovery in October 2013.
The City of Whitehall's Lake Street Reconstruction project will use best watershed management practices to improve storm water quality in the AOC. The "green street" project will use bioswales, naturalized detention, filter strips and treatment wetlands to improve stormwater quality before it enters White Lake. The project is partially funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
On this page:
About White Lake
White Lake is a 2,570 acre coastal, drowned river mouth lake located in Muskegon County along the east shore of Lake Michigan, in the vicinity of the communities of Montague and Whitehall. The Area of Concern includes White Lake and the White River watershed. Most of the land around the lake is wooded or grassy, with sand dunes located along Lake Michigan. Land use in the watershed is primarily recreational and agricultural, with the uses around White Lake being residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural.
The Occidental (Hooker) Chemical Company property was the primary source of contamination. Discharges from the site resulted in White Lake becoming polluted with chloroform, tetrachloride, and various volatile organic and chemical compounds. High levels of PCBs and chromium were also found. Agricultural runoff contributed to up to 97% of the phosphorus pollution in White Lake.
Eight out of a possible 14 beneficial use impairments were identified in the White Lake Area of Concern. To address the BUIs, priorities have been defined to include contaminated sediment remediation, eutrophication control, remediation of groundwater and former industrial site contamination, and wildlife habitat and population restoration.
Beneficial Use Impairments
- Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption (removed)
- Eutrophication or undesirable algae (removed)
- Restrictions on drinking water consumption, or taste and odor (removed)
- Degradation of fish and wildlife populations
- Degradation of aesthetics
- Degradation of benthos (removed)
- Restriction on dredging activities (removed)
- Loss of fish and wildlife habitat
Efforts towards restoration
White Lake was originally listed as an AOC because of venting of a groundwater plume contaminated with an organic solvent from the Occidental Chemical Company site, which is reflected in the 1987 remedial action plan document. Analysis of recent well monitoring data indicates that the plume of contaminated groundwater moving from the site is being intercepted by the lake-front purgewell network and effectively treated prior to discharge to White Lake. Remedial action plans are prepared by MDEQ with assistance from the White Lake public advisory council. The PAC has played a significant role in implanting the RAP and developing delisting targets. The council is part of the Muskegon Conservation District.
- BUI –removed: The restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption beneficial use impairment was removed for White Lake in February 2013. Consult the Michigan Department of Community Health’s Eat Safe Fish program for information about consumption limits on a species-by-species basis.
- 3 BUIs – removed: The degradation of benthos, eutrophication or undesirable algae, and restrictions on drinking water, taste or odor impairments were eliminated in 2012.
- BUI – removed: In September 2011, the restrictions on dredging activities BUI was removed. This was the first beneficial use impairment restored in the White Lake AOC.
- In 2010, the Muskegon Conservation District received a $2.1 million grant from the EPA through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The funds will be used towards seven habitat restoration projects. The projects will restore 5,100 linear feet of shorelines, create and restore 35 acres of wetland/aquatic habitat, reconnect 8 acres of upland and riparian corridors and remove over 27,000 cubic yards of shoreline/submerged debris.
- The Muskegon Conservation District completed a habitat assessment of the lake shoreline in 2005 that also evaluates areas for littoral/riparian zone contiguity. The assessment illustrates the importance of responsible development and appropriate land usage within the AOC.
- Koch Chemical agreed to install a new well for City of Whitehall due to groundwater contamination overlapping with the city’s "groundwater protection area" in 2005. The well is a step towards improving the status of several BUIs.
- Occidental/Hooker Chemical dredged 12,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the lake near their outlet discharge pipe in 2003.
- In 2002, Michigan citizens (via MDEQ) and Genesco, Inc. paid for removal of 85,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from Tannery Bay.
- In 2001, it was announced that Genesco Inc., parent company of now-defunct Whitehall Leather Co., and the State of Michigan would split the $6.7 million cost of removing 73,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from White Lake's "Tannery Bay." Whitehall Leather and its forerunners began dumping cow hides into Tannery Bay beginning in 1866 and discharging heavy metals into the lake in 1944. MDEQ reports show the sediments contained chromium levels 200 times higher than normal and arsenic levels 100 times more than is normal. Leather scraps, cow hair and a substance described as "purple mayonnaise" were also discovered.
You will need the free Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more.
- White Lake: On the Path to Delisting (PDF) (2 pp, 1.2 MB) July 2011
- Habitat Restoration Project Fact Sheet (PDF) (2 pp, 231 K) July 2011
- White Lake Community Action Plan (PDF) (48 pp, 3.0 MB) 2005
- White Lake Remedial Action Plan (PDF) (258 pp, 7.1 MB) October 1987