4 Michigan Superfund sites to soon receive federal funding for cleanup projects

EGLE hopes to get about $74M for cleanup costs

By: - January 21, 2022 7:07 am

Superfund sites receiving EPA funding | Laina G. Stebbins graphic

Cleanup projects at four Michigan Superfund sites that have been awaiting funding for years will soon finally have those dollars, thanks to a plan announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month.

The sites in Charlevoix, Mancelona Township, St. Clair Shores and St. Louis are among 45 others across the country set to receive federal funds from the bipartisan infrastructure law. According to the EPA, more than 60% of the Superfund sites are located in historically underserved communities — populations which disproportionately face more pollution and other instances of environmental injustice.

In total, the EPA said it will invest $1 billion from the bipartisan infrastructure law signed by President Joe Biden last year into the 49 toxic sites across the country.

Projects to further cleanup at the Charlevoix Municipal Well, Tar Lake Site, Ten-Mile Drain and Velsicol Burn Pit in Michigan are set to be jump-started once again with the new funds.

“EGLE is excited to learn that these sites will be receiving funding so that the necessary cleanups can move forward soon.  This funding will definitely accelerate the pace of cleanup at these sites,” said Hugh McDiarmid, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) on Thursday.

“It is my understanding that the EPA regional office has not yet received this funding, but they are expecting it very soon.  We have been working with the EPA in getting the necessary documents in place so this work can proceed as expeditiously as possible,” McDiarmid added.

McDiarmid said Thursday that the department has not yet heard from the EPA on how much of the funding will be appropriated to each site. EGLE also does not yet know whether the funding will come in phases or all at once.

“However, we hope that the funding will cover the estimated costs of remediating those sites,” McDiarmid said.

Those estimated costs are:

  • $26,990,000 for Tar Lake
  • $25,000,000 for the Velsicol Burn Pit
  • $14,817,000 for the Charlevoix Municipal Well
  • $7,000,000 for the Ten-Mile Drain

The state first discovered that the Charlevoix Municipal Well was contaminating the city water supply in the early 1980s. Steps to abate the groundwater, soil and soil gas contamination issues have been taken since then, but more are needed to maintain the safety of the surrounding area.

The new federal dollars will be used to implement the EPA’s interim remedy for the site. That plan includes excavating contaminated shallow soils, installing vapor mitigation systems on select buildings and treating contaminated groundwater and deeper soils.

As for the Tar Lake Site in Mancelona Township — a 234-acre site surrounding a dry 4-acre pond in which the Antrim Iron Company once disposed of hazardous waste — an additional cleanup plan was determined in 2013 and the project has been awaiting funding since. 

Those efforts will entail the removal of over 220,000 tons of tar source material and tar-contaminated soil, along with the installation of additional biosparge wells to treat groundwater at the site. 

The Tar Lake Site resides on tribal territory ceded to the Grand Traverse Bay of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

The Ten-Mile Drain is a heavily contaminated underground storm sewer system located about 15 feet below ground in St. Clair Shores. It discharges water into two residential canals connected to Lake St. Clair, which both provide recreational boating, fishing and swimming access.

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were first detected in the sewer in 2001. There has been extensive cleanup since then, but much more progress to be made in order to properly address the widespread PCB contamination.

The federal funds will help the EPA move forward with more cleanup that has been planned at 47 properties, as well as contamination remediation in near-surface soils in residential yards, parkway/utility corridors and commercial properties at the site.

Lastly, the 1-acre Velsicol Burn Pit in St. Louis still requires excavation and off-site ash pile disposal, treatment of high threat source materials within the former burn pit and new water supply hookups to nine nearby residences.

Those designs for source area cleanup are all complete and now just require funding. Once those objectives are met, the EPA is set to study the area’s groundwater to determine how best to move forward on groundwater protection efforts.

The burn pit was once owned by Velsicol Chemical, which has since filed for bankruptcy and therefore cannot fund cleanup efforts. The 1-acre area is now located in an out-of-bounds area of the public Hidden Oaks Golf Course.

The EPA says that there is no immediate risk for users of the golf course.


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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.