Aggregate material causes seawall along Detroit River to collapse, authorities investigate

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Pressure from a heavy pile of gravel caused a portion of the seawall on the Revere Dock to collapse near the Detroit River on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021.
Pressure from a heavy pile of gravel caused a portion of the seawall on the Revere Dock to collapse near the Detroit River on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021.

Authorities are testing for potentially hazardous materials following a seawall collapse Friday at a site near Fort Wayne along the Detroit River.

Pressure from a heavy pile of gravel caused a portion of the seawall on the Revere Dock to collapse Friday afternoon, according to a spokesperson from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). The incident comes two years after limestone construction aggregate fell into the Detroit River, sparking calls for tighter regulations and maintenance of seawalls along the river.

About a 100-foot portion of the seawall collapsed into a boat slip owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, causing soil behind the seawall to fall into the river. There are contamination concerns with the soil, said Jill Greenberg with EGLE.

More: EPA: Initial $20 million cleanup of former McLouth Steel site in Trenton is complete

The entrance to Detroit Bulk Storage where pressure from a heavy pile of gravel caused a portion of the seawall on the Revere Dock to collapse on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021.
The entrance to Detroit Bulk Storage where pressure from a heavy pile of gravel caused a portion of the seawall on the Revere Dock to collapse on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021.

The gravel pile, owned by Detroit Bulk Storage, was relocated over the weekend to relieve some pressure, Greenberg said. Floating barriers called booms were installed to contain the petroleum sheen that developed on the water's surface and turbidity curtains were put in to deflect the river's flow from entering the barrier.

The incident is ongoing and further details are being uncovered as the investigation continues.

State Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, said Monday she is "extremely disappointed and frustrated" to learn of Friday's collapse.

Booms float near the mouth of the Detroit River after pressure from a heavy pile of gravel caused a portion of the seawall on the Revere Dock to collapse on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021.
Booms float near the mouth of the Detroit River after pressure from a heavy pile of gravel caused a portion of the seawall on the Revere Dock to collapse on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021.

"It is also extremely concerning to know that the material from the collapsed shoreline is still shifting while we are still awaiting answers," Chang said in a statement to the Free Press Monday. "My residents deserve to have clear answers as soon as possible about any contamination or hazards to their health, and we need to take all possible steps at the city, state and federal (levels) to ensure this kind of collapse does not happen again in the future."

Water samples have been collected and are being tested for contaminants, including volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, and metals. Analytical results of the samples are expected to be completed this week and will then be provided to EGLE, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard.

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Located west of the Ambassador Bridge, the Revere Dock was also the site of a collapse in 2019 that drew criticism from environmental advocates when limestone construction material fell into the river. The materials were being stored by Detroit Bulk Storage, the same company whose materials caused Friday's seawall collapse.

Detroit Bulk Storage did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

EGLE fined Revere Dock $60,000 for the November 2019 seawall collapse for violating state environmental laws. The spill initially created great concern, as the Revere site at one time contained radioactive materials from the days when it was utilized for atomic bomb components and uranium rod development in the 1940s and 1950s.

More: EGLE: Companies' response to Detroit River dock collapse 'inadequate'

Testing by both the Great Lakes Water Authority, which has drinking water intakes in the Detroit River, and EGLE turned up no excessive amounts of radioactivity. Further testing found no excessive levels of industrial contaminants in the river water near the collapse site.

In September, the Detroit City Council passed the Detroit River Protection Ordinance to require the city’s Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department to keep a registry of property owners along the river who also have to submit a seawall report every five years. It also requires operators with bulk storage or who use heavy equipment to submit geotechnical reports.

The seawall reconstructed by Revere Dock after the 2019 collapse was not damaged Friday and is intact and fully functional, Greenberg said Monday.

Free Press reporter Keith Matheny contributed to this report.

mmarini@freepress.com

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit River seawall collapses due to heavy gravel piles