Residents concerned, skeptical about containment, oversight of McLouth site cleanup

Photo by Sue Suchyta Diane Russell (standing, left), of the Environmental Protection Agency answers questions during a public meeting on the proposed liability settlement and cleanup of the former McLouth Steel site held Sept. 5 at the St. Paul Lutheran Church Reception Hall in Trenton.

Photo by Sue Suchyta
Diane Russell (standing, left), of the Environmental Protection Agency answers questions during a public meeting on the proposed liability settlement and cleanup of the former McLouth Steel site held Sept. 5 at the St. Paul Lutheran Church Reception Hall in Trenton.

 

By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers

TRENTON – Area residents expressed concern and skepticism at a Sept. 5 public hearing about containment and oversight during the McLouth site cleanup, questioning Crown’s track record, and asking about airborne particulate matter.

The meeting, held at St. Paul Lutheran Church, drew Trenton, Riverview and Grosse Ile Township officials and residents, and Wayne County representatives.

Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency moderated the meeting and fielded questions. Officials from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality were on hand to discuss the remediation of the northern part of the site in Riverview.

Michael Samhat, president of Crown Enterprises, which will be a party to the consent agreement, attended the first part of the meeting, but declined to comment when a resident asked him a question about the cleanup.

An unexpected question arose when a Grosse Ile resident, who has a view of the site from his residence across the river, asked how raw food unloaded from ocean going vessels south of the site, at Trenton Land Holdings, would be protected from particulate matter during the tear-down phase, and submitted a recent photo of a ship off-loading raw sugar.

Photo by Sue Suchyta Jeffrey Mesler of Grosse Ile Township, who said he will have a “front row seat” to the cleanup from his house, voiced concerns about the cleanup of the former McLouth site Sept. 5 at a public hearing in Trenton.

Photo by Sue Suchyta
Jeffrey Mesler of Grosse Ile Township, who said he will have a “front row seat” to the cleanup from his house, voiced concerns about the cleanup of the former McLouth site Sept. 5 at a public hearing in Trenton.

Brian Kelly, Steve Kaiser and Nuria Muniz of the EPA provided an overview, and explained the settlement and Superfund process, while Rich Conforti from the MDEQ, which will oversee the Corrective Action Consent Order on the northern part of the property in Riverview, listed what must be done and the penalties to Crown for failure to perform.

Kaiser acknowledged that the McLouth site will be on the National Priority List with many other polluted sites for a pool of cleanup money that is shrinking under the current administration.

“I am not going to sugar coat it,” Kaiser said. “I am not going to say that there is endless amounts of money to throw at these sites because there isn’t. There is competition between sites, between states. Michigan is our partner in this. They made a commitment to pay 10 percent of the cost of the investigation and 10 percent of the cost of the cleanup.”

Trenton resident Kirsten Brock-Miller echoed other residents’ concerns about Crown Enterprises as well as the seemingly well-rehearsed responses from EPA officials.

“You have been quick to respond to our comments, but you have yet to answer most of our questions,” Brock-Miller said. “We are here because of the settlement, and all of our questions are very, very valid.”

She asked if raw food unloaded from a ship downwind of the tear-down is contaminated by particulate matter, would Crown be held responsible, and was frustrated when she didn’t get the direct response she hoped for from EPA officials.

Those wishing to submit comments to the EPA, which will be shared with the MDEQ, may fax them to 313-353-1263, or email safakas.kirstin@epa.gov, write to Kirstin Safakas, U.S. EPA Region 5, Superfund Division (SI-6J), 77 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL, 60604-3590. Comments must be postmarked by Sept. 13.

For more information about the cleanup of the site, go to epa.gov/superfund/mclouth-steel.

(Sue Suchyta can be reached at sue.suchyta@yahoo.com.)