Ford settles, will clean up environmental contamination
By Sarah Wojcik
Posted September 25, 2013
SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Until the Shelby Township Board of Trustees meeting Sept. 17, the environmentally contaminated industrial site located near Mound and 23 Mile roads had been a closed-door discussion.
Shelby Township Attorney Rob Huth shared at the meeting that the township came to an agreement with Ford Motor Co. Sept. 6.
Huth said that Ford Motor Co. agreed to clean up the area. The company’s position, as of July 1, was that it might not have been responsible for the environmental contamination, since predecessors including Visteon, Packard and the U.S. Air Force occupied the property.
“What now has occurred is Ford Motor Co. has said we will come in and install monitors and what’s called ‘hot spot treatments’ at the site, and begin treating (contamination),” Huth said.
Ford Motor Co. spokesperson Todd Nissen declined to comment on the cleanup but sent an emailed statement to the Shelby-Utica News.
“Ford takes this issue seriously and remains committed to doing what is right for the community and the environment,” Nissen’s statement read. “We are working on the terms of a settlement. Until that is finalized, we are not able to provide additional information.”
Paul Owens, the district supervisor for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), said that Ford Motor Co. has identified three main areas that are a source of concern.
“We actually do have an interim response plan (Ford Motor Co.) submitted to us for part of this site called ‘area three’ on the property formerly owned by Indiana Metals,” Owens said. “It’s basically the southeastern corner, where there is a little bit of the TCE (trichloroethylene) migrating in a southeasterly direction toward condos.”
According to www.water.epa.gov, trichloroethylene is a volatile organic chemical. It is a colorless or blue liquid with a chloroform-like odor. People who are exposed to it by drinking the contaminated water could experience problems with their liver and may have an increased risk of getting cancer.
Owens said Ford Motor Co. proposed installing permeable reactive barriers by digging a trench and filling it with zero-valent iron, which will essentially treat the groundwater as it flows through, allowing it to come out safe on the other side.
He said his office will approve the plan this week and that Ford plans to install the trench within two months of approval. Owens also said he expects to receive plans for the other two areas of concern before the end of the year, which will prevent the contamination from migrating to the east toward the township baseball diamonds.
“It’s definitely a good thing,” Owens said, adding that Ford Motor Co. has collected a lot of data and has a handle on the scope of the contamination and how to prevent it.
Huth said that Ford Motor Co. also agreed to come in and do another cleanup if more contamination is discovered once a cement slab is removed, which may be a possibility, according to Dr. James Dragun.
The township hired Dragun Corp., an environmental consulting firm, to scope out the extent of the environmental contamination in October 2012. The firm estimated that cleanup may cost as much as $150 million.
Ford Motor Co. agreed with a number of conditions Sept. 6, including monitoring the property and informing the township of updates, as well as throwing in $50,000 for township costs for the whole process, Huth said.
“This is not everything we asked for, but I am satisfied after a lengthy settlement negotiation,” he said, adding that he has been in court for 15 months and has a file at least 10 feet thick of court documents. “I believe this is the best deal for the township to protect the residents.”
Supervisor Rick Stathakis said he is hopeful the cleanup starting point will be the early quarter of 2014 and said he is satisfied with Huth’s stance that no end date be identified in case more problems turn up.
“I look at it as an ongoing process,” Stathakis said. “I’m very happy that Ford finally stepped up to the plate and accepted responsibility, and even more importantly, I’m very happy that they’re going to clean it up as they should have done 14 months ago.”
About the author
Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik covers Shelby Township and Utica for the Shelby-Utica News. Sarah has worked for C & G Newspapers since 2013 and attended Oakland University. She won a first place 2013 Excellence in Journalism award for open government reporting and a second place 2014 Excellence in Journalism award for a series of explanatory stories from the Detroit chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
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