By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON – After reaching agreement with regulatory agencies, Matthew Moroun of Crown Enterprises said the company is ready to clean up the former McLouth site to prepare it for unspecified future development.
At a Nov. 1 press conference and celebration at the former Trenton McLouth site on Jefferson Avenue north of King Road, Maroun declined to comment on the type of business Crown and MSC Land Company LLC would development on the site, emphasizing that the next step is to get the site ready for development by tearing down 47 buildings, removing asbestos, PCBs and other contaminates, removing millions of gallons of contaminated water and sludge from subsurface structures, and preventing further contaminated storm water runoff into the Trenton Channel of the Detroit River.
“Let’s not sugarcoat this,” Maroun said. “The project is getting this site ready for a development. It’s going to take a few years. There is a lot to do.”
The purchase, assessment and property cleanup agreement Crown and MSC Land signed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Department of Justice means Crown will not be held responsible for the contamination of the property by its previous owners.
The purchase includes 183 acres of the southern portion of the former McLouth site in Trenton and Riverview and clarifies what cleanup responsibilities Crown and MSC will have.
Prior to any structure demolition, asbestos-containing material must be removed, as well as containerized waste and all materials containing polychlorinated biphenyls.
PCBs, once used widely as industrial coolants and heat transfer fluids, are organic pollutants and suspected carcinogens.
In addition, millions of gallons of contaminated water and sludge must be removed from substructures, including pits and lagoons, which is complicated by the absence of blueprints of the maze of underground passages. A sedimentation basin on site, which holds about 4 million gallons of water, will be treated and the liquid removed and disposed.
During a bus tour of the grounds, Crown Director Dennis Schreibeis said despite all the work ahead of them, they were “ecstatic” to be closing on the transaction.
“We are going to manage storm water right off the bat,” Schreibeis said, “but what we need to do is figure out a long-term plan for the spaghetti network of in-the-ground of pipes that we need to analyze and be able to manage.”
Schreibeis said Crown is still trying to determining whether it can use the infrastructure of the McLouth waste water treatment plant.
He pointed out that the site has a valuable deep water port in the Trenton Channel.
Ken Moberly of Cogent Recovery of Trenton said dust is a big part of every demolition project, and clean water will be used to control dust during the demolition of the buildings on site.
“There are a lot of areas on site with relatively clean water,” Moberly said. “A modified snowmaker will be going on the whole time.”
Cogent Recovery will prepare the buildings and take care of the environmental concerns prior to demolition, Moberly said.
Schreibeis said the demolition company is D-21 Demolition of Ypsilanti.
“We have committed to use our best effort in our agreement with the county to get (demolition) done in two years,” Schreibeis said. “We are ‘eating the elephant’ – the first bites. We have got two years ahead of us.”
After the tour of the site, as both Crown and government officials gathered in a tent in an attempt to stay dry, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said all parties were motivated and worked hard to bring the project to the point it is at now.
“Those who think government can’t perform under pressure, this is an example of how governments can work together to get stuff done,” Evans said.
Evans said trust builds through time as the parties work together.
“I am elated and excited to see this happen,” Evans said. “Hopefully in 48 months or so, we won’t see the hulk there, and we now have someone who is going to development this property and make something out of it.”
Mayor Kyle Stack said it was a monumental day for Trenton.
“Never in my lifetime did I think that something would be done with this site,” Stack said. “I am very pleased that all parties have come to an agreement, and the city of Trenton is proud to have Crown Enterprises as a partner in our community.”
Stack thanked Crown for taking on the huge initiative.
“This is truly a big undertaking, but I know that you will make this commitment a reality to our community,” she said. “The council and I look forward to you being one of our community partners, and having an entrance to the community that we will all be proud of. This is a great opportunity for the city of Trenton to move forward.”
U.S.Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) said the remnants of McLouth Steel have been sitting on the site as stark reminders of its past, both good and bad, for the past 23 years.
“Today it’s about the future,” she said. “It’s about the next generation. We need to stop looking backwards. Today is about looking forward.”
Dingell said she wants a new good memory to rise from the site.
“We have a long road ahead of us,” she said. “Today is about hope and the future. Taking down buildings and cleaning up this site is not going to happen overnight, but it starts with a single step, and that is what we are taking today, the first step for the future of this site.”
Dingell called for diligence from all stakeholders to help ensure the site is properly cleaned up.
“We are going to protect the ground, the air and the water, and ensure that this isn’t a safety or environmental risk to the residents of Trenton or any of the surrounding Downriver communities,” she said.
Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree said his office made the decision to foreclose on the site more than two years ago after consulting with Trenton officials and the Wayne County executive for unpaid property taxes, and he said the decision was the right one.
“It hasn’t been easy, and it has been a very bumpy ride,” Sabree said. “But this teamwork will put a landmark property back to productive use, and this represents real progress in Trenton and Wayne County.”
Brian Kelly of the EPA said there are multiple pathways the EPA will watch during demolition to make sure contaminants don’t leave the site, including airborne particulates during building teardown, preventing soil from being tracked off site, and making sure that the lagoon is cleaned up and not spilled.
“There is a lot of planning that has to go into it, and they have already started submitting work plans and we have started reviewing that,” Kelly said.
Kelly said the EPA will partner with the MDEQ to make sure all prospect aspects are covered.
He said contaminated debris will only go to approved landfills, and while some of the metal in the buildings will be recycled, metal panels containing asbestos will have to be disposed of by other means.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected].)