Mountains of trash, asbestos, and more than 50 PCB transformers — that's what the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and EGLE found on the site of the former McLouth Steel site in Trenton after the company ceased operation. Under those circumstances, the potential benefits of reutilization can become lost when compared to cleanup costs.
The cleanup at the facility is featured in a video produced by the EPA and is cited as an example of how progress on a Superfund site can happen when the EPA, State and community join together.
McLouth filed for bankruptcy in 1995 but it wasn't until 2017, when Wayne County acquired 183 acres of the property through tax foreclosure, that the path for cleanup took shape. The county entered into an agreement with Crown Enterprises, and its affiliate, MSC Land Co. Then, MSC approached the EPA about taking an unusual route toward making the location usable again. The result was a comprehensive agreement that requires MSC to take certain actions to clean this site up.
EGLE, as one of the three main parties to the settlement, has had staff from the Materials Management, Remediation and Redevelopment and Air Quality divisions onsite for demolition oversight.
Jacob Runge, an environmental engineer with the Materials Management Division, notes there are several unique aspects of this project. "First is the cooperation between EGLE, EPA, and the property owners," he said. "It is good when a site in need of environmental remediation — especially at this level — has an owner willing to invest in a cleanup and work collaboratively with state and federal regulators. It's great to see work happen at this pace in coordination with our counterparts at EPA between multiple EGLE divisions, and with the local community."
Another noteworthy aspect of the project is the number of people who are involved with the cleanup and long-term care of the site, Runge says. "The facility is in Trenton, but the whole Downriver community is affected, and I regularly speak with residents of Trenton, Riverview, and Grosse Ile about the happenings on-site. It's tremendous to see so many people care about their community."
Community engagement has been a vital part throughout the process. Last year, the public was given the opportunity to tour the site, and the EPA continues to hold community advisory group meetings, of which EGLE is a part, via webinar. The next meeting is on Sept. 10.
The demolition is expected to be complete by October 30, when the MMD will hand over responsibility to the RRD. With long-term Superfund money and EGLE RRD oversight, investigation will continue for at least another five years and remediation well beyond that, Runge added.