Sampling sludge on Barry Co. river

HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) – 24 Hour News 8 is testing sludge on top of the Little Thornapple River for E.Coli.

The culvert under North Charleton Park Road was blocked by logs, branches and vegetation, and the sludge built up on top of the stopped water.

On Friday, 24 Hour News 8 saw a crew from the Barry County Road Commission at the blocked culvert, removing the vegetation blocking the flow.

“We had been contacted by the [Department of Environmental Quality] to come out and clear away the debris in front of the culvert in front of the road. We were concerned with the rains coming in this weekend that that may adversely affect the road, and we wanted to make sure we could get that out of there before anything negative happened to the road and the traveling public,” said Jacob Welch, the director of operations for the Barry County Road Commission.

It was key, 24 Hour News 8 was told, that the DEQ sign off ahead of time on any work road commission crews did.

“We generally try to stay out of almost all waterways without DEQ approval prior to,” said Welch.

The stuff blocking the culverts is mostly gone, but the river wasn’t immediately moving, which meant there was still a layer of smelly sludge on top of the water.

Mike Worm, from the DEQ, said that crews on the banks of the river Thursday determined that the layer on top of the river was likely “decomposing organic material.”

Worm said his department did not take samples of the material on the river.  After hearing concerns from those who live along the river that the sludge may be something like manure, 24 Hour News 8 decided to test a sample of the material on the water.

24 Hour News 8 took the collected sample to a private lab in Grand Rapids, Prein and Newhof.

Bob Erickson, from Prein and Newhof, walked 24 Hour News 8 through the process the sample will go through.

The sample is fairly thick, so first it will be diluted in sterile water, and then the sample will be run through a filter.  That filter will then be placed in a petri dish, and will be allowed to grow for 24 hours.

Erickson said they will then count how many “dots” they see in the dish, saying each dot represents one colony of bacteria.  He said he expects to see some E. Coli in any sample of surface water.

He said for example in a body of water like a pool, the levels are determined to be dangerous when there are about 300 colonies in the sample.

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