Contaminated sites with a history of heavy industrial use are complex projects to remediate for future development. These properties carry significant liabilities for current and prospective owners which need to be resolved through the appropriate remedial actions and due diligence. Envirologic has performed environmental investigations and remediation for over 27 years and understands the regulatory and financial demands placed on projects with this type of use history.
Envirologic was retained in 2014 by the leading North American redevelopment firm, Commercial Development Company, Inc. (CDC), which specializes in the acquisition of contaminated industrial sites and the environmental liabilities associated with them. Our role was to represent their environmental interest in the acquisition of the decommissioned DTE power plant in Marysville, Michigan, and the associated Greenwood Oil Terminal. Built in the 1920s, the 30-acre power plant complex was prime real estate for revitalization. This waterfront real estate sat empty until the plant was finally decommissioned in 2011 and available for sale. The 40-acre oil storage and distribution facility was constructed in the late 1970s and was supported by a deep water port located at the power plant. The terminal and deep water port are still usable, although currently not operating.
Envirologic's initial role was to evaluate site characterization data that had been identified through divestiture due diligence and from that information develop a comprehensive remedial investigation and action plan acceptable to the seller, DTE Energy, which was a condition of the sale. Envirologic presented the remedial investigation and action plan to DTE, who accepted it, thereby facilitating the final acquisition of the property.
After the closing of the sale, Envirologic implemented the remedial investigation portion of the plan at both facilities and completed them in less than 12 months. The remedial action plan called for extensive investigation of both sites so that all areas of contamination could be defined and remedial actions identified. Envirologic will continue to assist CDC with the implementation of remedial actions in order to obtain No Further Action status from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Since the investigation began in July 2014, three NFAs have been submitted to the MDEQ for approval, and two more are nearing completion.
Envirologic, on behalf of CDC, applied for and received funding from an EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant that had been awarded to the St. Clair County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority. These grant dollars were used to help fund assessment and cleanup planning on the project site. Envirologic has helped over a dozen communities in Michigan successfully apply for and receive these important environmental assessment tools. This grant allowed CDC to begin remedial investigation immediately and in accordance with the very limited timeframe established in the purchase agreement with DTE. Envirologic implemented the remedial investigation in July 2014 and completed it in April 2015.
The investigation of both sites encompassed numerous routes for contaminants to travel, which posed complex environmental challenges. The power plant sits along a major Great Lakes waterway, the St. Clair River, with one of its property boundaries juxtaposed to the river. A creek also traverses the property in two locations and empties into the river. When the plant was constructed, the banks of the river had to be built up to support the power plant's infrastructure which includes a deep water port. Historical photographs document that the river banks were filled with unknown industrial debris and materials brought in from surrounding industries operating in the area. These materials posed a potential risk to the river. Other infrastructure presented additional concerns, such as coal and coal ash storage, leaking underground storage tanks, ash slurry disposal, and oily waste basins.
The Greenwood Oil Terminal storage facility, which has over 15 million gallons of aboveground storage, sits on top of the former coal and coal ash storage area for the power plant. The creek extends onto the property and cuts through the former coal and coal ash storage areas. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the oil storage terminal was constructed. It received oil from ships off-loading at the deep water port located at the power plant. The oil was stored and eventually piped to another power plant 20 miles north. The oil storage infrastructure combined with the previous storage of coal and coal ash created a unique combination of contaminants in an environment not conducive to remediation.
Envirologic conducted a multimedia investigation encompassing numerous potential exposure pathways including but not limited to contaminated groundwater discharging to surface water, drinking water, vapor intrusion, and direct contact. The investigation comprised the advancement and installation of numerous soil borings, groundwater monitoring wells, and creek pore water screens and piezometers from which soil, groundwater, and pore water samples were collected and analyzed for myriad contaminants. From these data, Envirologic prepared conceptual site models of both sites that presented complete and potential contaminant exposure pathways, in addition to recommendations for controlling and/or eliminating the exposure pathways through remedial action and/or administrative and engineering controls.
The power plant was demolished in November of 2015 and site clean-up has since been completed. Both sites are now marketable to prospective developers without traditional barriers (environmental and old structures) to redevelopment of the industrial properties. The City announced a vision for a destination development that includes a hotel, retail/office space, restaurants, and a marina with pedestrian walkways. These uses will bring the community good jobs and a strong tax base long into the future.
Photos and video courtesy of Commercial Development Company, Inc.
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