PCB Ground Contamination Is Discovered At Former Haworth Plant In Douglas
A new contaminant has been discovered at the former Haworth Manufacturing site on Blue Star Highway in Douglas: PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl), different than the chlorinated solvents and metals previously found by environmental experts, Douglas City Manager Bill LeFevere said during his report at Monday night’s council meeting.
A grant/loan application the Douglas City Council is submitting to the State of Michigan to support the redevelopment and environmental response action for the Haworth site has been modified from a $850,000 request to $1,250,000 to reflect that new factor, he said.
“There is an additional contaminant on the site they (developer and consultant) didn’t find before,” said LeFevere regarding the PCBs that were recently found and are now part of new information on the revised application submitted to the state.
“Regarding the PCBs detected in soil, we anticipate the concentrations may be too high to leave in place, even with the existing floor, the applicant, the City of Douglas, makes known in a response to a question in The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Brownfield Redevelopment Grant and Loan Application.
In further response, city officials stated, “Although the release was pre-1978 and therefore not subject to certain parts of the TSCA (the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act), it is anticipated that DEQ and U.S. EPA will become engaged in determining the risk (e.g., risk assessment, source removal, etc.). We have estimated source removal will be the appropriate action for these soils.”
The PCB factor—and the corresponding larger state grant request as a consequence—is the only change on the application, indicated LeFevere.
The DEQ has long known about the plume of chlorinated solvents (i.e., TCE) and metals in groundwater that has migrated off-site and believed to come from underneath the Haworth facility.
Since the 1940s, the Haworth site has been used by numerous industrial entities, mainly those in automative and hardware. The DEQ has found Haworth, its current owner, is free of any responsibility for the contaminant plume and it cannot find “available responsible parties” with respect to the former manufacturers.
The DEQ has taken mitigation measures, but more assessment and action is required now and in the future, and in fact, the agency has set aside $1 million for that very purpose, Ray Spaulding of the DEQ’s Kalamazoo District told The Local Observer last week.
“There is no immediate danger to the public, but the developer does need to mitigate the indoor air exposure pathway,” Spaulding said of the vapor intrusion his agency found inside the facility and the responsibility of Geerlings Development Company, the developer the city is in partnership with for the redevelopment project, per the application conditions.
In fact, Geerlings’ purchase of the property from Haworth partly hinges on a successful approval of the grant/loan request.
The developer, the application notes, will invest $5 million to $10 million of its own funds for the proposed new development; generate 75 to 100 new permanent jobs in the first two years following a $1 million to $2 million investment.
The breakdown of what part of the $1,250,000 will be grant monies and what part will be loan funds is still unknown, say city officials and the developer.
The redevelopment grant/loan can only be awarded to the local unit of government, not a private entity.
The grant/loan comes with conditions that the developer create jobs and use the grant/loan funds to conduct investigations and necessary actions to fulfill “environmental due care” and “baseline environmental assessment (BEA) response activities.”
So far, there has been no official finding that the newly discovered PCBs are an actual or potential health hazard to neighboring homes or businesses or those that reside in the area impacted by the underground plume of contaminants reaching towards Lake Michigan from the Haworth site.