Shelby TownshipAugust 10, 2012
Circuit Court grants access to former Visteon site
By Brad D. Bates
C & G Staff Writer
Seventeen days after his initial ruling on access to the former Ford/Visteon plant at 50500 Mound Road, Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Richard Caretti called the matter’s return to his court “a colossal waste.”
Caretti referred to the fact that lawyers from Shelby Township, Indiana Metals and Ford Motor Co. were again in his courtroom disputing access to the site for environmental testing for toxic contaminants at the site and its surrounding areas.
“I think this is a classic example of much ado about nothing,” Caretti said Aug. 9.
Caretti ordered the lawyers to meet and come to terms on a resolution, and attorneys agreed to allow Shelby Township’s investigator, Farmington Hills-based Dragun Corp. President James Dragun, access to conduct his testing pending notice of his actions.
“They were telling us we could not get on the site because they were objecting to testing at the site,” Township Attorney Rob Huth said. “The good news is we will be there (Aug. 13).”
Access was denied Aug. 6 as officials from Dragun attempted to move an office trailer on the site prior to testing.
“Indiana Metal allowed access to a select portion of the site, but needed additional information on new proposed sampling to avoid a conflict with ongoing demolition activities,” Ford Communications Manager Becky Sanch said in an email.
“Ford does not own the property, but is supportive of efforts to coordinate the work to provide a safe environment for all parties conducting work at the site.”
Ford Motor Co. purchased 337 acres around the plant in 1962 and operated the plant until it shuttered in 2009. Indiana Metals bought the 1,870,480-square-foot facility for $3.5 million in November 2010.
Concerns were raised about possible contamination of areas surrounding the site when Dragun found a “plume” of contaminated ground water east of the plant that is two-thirds of a mile long and 1,000 feet wide where it crosses the property’s boundary into surrounding areas.
“There’s three major areas that can be a problem,” Dragun said of the need for testing. “One is human health, two is property and property values and third is the potential danger to the environment.
“The discovery of this plume — and it’s big — it’s an indication of a very significant release.”
Ford disputes that there is any contamination outside of the plant’s property, but said they have yet to conduct testing in the adjacent parcels.
“We are in the process of gathering environmental data to determine what actions, if any, need to be taken at the site, and have met with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and local residents to keep them apprised of our activities,” Sanch said.
“We have not seen any data to support that anything is leaving the former plant site and moving into the neighboring community. Ford remains committed to doing what is right for the community and the environment.”
Dragun said his team is hoping to find the source of the contaminants, which are two volatile organic compounds known as trichloroethene (TCE) and 1,1,1-Trichloroethane (TCA).
“The potential for a problem is because of the size of the plume,” Dragun said. “We want to get in there, find the source and turn the spigot off.
“Our objective is the same objective as Shelby Township — to protect human health, property and the environment,” Dragun added.
Finding the source of any contamination could also be key in finishing demolition of the site as it was outlined in the 32 guidelines and conditions Shelby Township and Indiana Metals agreed to March 22 to facilitate the issuance of a demolition permit.
One of the conditions was that the site be demolished, including the concrete slabs. But Dragun said because of the possibility of disrupting the contamination flow and worsening the situation, the court ordered that the slabs remain pending investigation.
“We want the source (of contamination) completely cleaned up, so there is no risk,” Huth said.
“Ford’s responsible for environmental cleanup of the site,” Huth added, noting that it was unclear as of now if that included the removal of the slabs.
Huth said the township is safeguarded by a special bond, which is in excess of $800,000, that would allow the township to clear the slabs once it is safe regardless of who is responsible for the eventual removal.
Demolition at the site is to be concluded in five months, but Dragun said his testing and investigation could be finished before then or take much longer.
“It’s like a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle,” Dragun said of testing. “It could be easy and be done in a month, but it could be something really hard like a picture of a pizza and take a lot longer.”
While his investigation of the site is ongoing, Dragun said residents in nearby areas shouldn’t worry about exposure as drinking water and bathwater provided by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is unaffected.
He said the only source of exposure to contaminated ground water may come through vapor or irrigation wells, but even that may not be affected.
Tests performed by Paragon Laboratories July 24 for the Manors Condo Association, located southeast of the plant, on wells 113 feet deep near the site showed “no detectable levels of TCE, TCA or any other volatile organic compounds.”
“Paragon tested the samples for any measurable traces of (74) different types of VOCs, including TCA and TCE which have been detected in groundwater samples taken,” a post on the association’s website, manorsatcentralpark.blogspot.com, said.
“Please be aware that we use our well only for watering the sides and top of the landscaped berm along the north and west perimeter of our property. The landscaping in the rear yards backing up to the berm are watered using municipal drinking water, as are all of the remainder of our landscaped areas.”
Dragun said with the renewed order for access, his team and the group from Conestoga-Rovers & Associates, which is performing tests for Ford, are able to test any area of the site as long as they give 48 hours notice.
“The judge’s protocol for access indicate the timetables, which we all have to deal with,” Dragun said, noting the week’s difference between his original date to start testing and Aug. 13 would make little to no difference in test results. “And it’s all reasonable.”
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