Current Environmental Status
- A multi-party Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) for Response Activities entered on July 29, 2016, will facilitate the cleanup and redevelopment of the entire property. The parties to the AOC include the Michigan Department of Attorney General, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), S.D. Warren dba Sappi North America, Melching Demolition (Melching), and Pure Muskegon LLC.
- The AOC and property transfer from Melching Inc. to Pure Muskegon also triggered approval of a $1 Million MDEQ Brownfield Grant awarded to the City of Muskegon to assist in the removal of the remaining two stacks on the Sappi Property. While workers were constructing scaffolding to abate the asbestos-containing exterior paint layer on the older easternmost stack, the upper portion of the stack was found to be unstable and unable to support the scaffolding supports. As a result, the City issued an order to demolish the older easternmost stack. Updates to that emergency stack demolition effort can be found at the City’s website www.Muskegon-mi.gov.
- Environmental Response Activities, including lime pile management and Due Care response activities as explained below, will result in continued property improvements to facilitate safe reuse and redevelopment of the Property.
- Pure Muskegon has completed and disclosed its Baseline Environmental Assessment within the statutory (Part 201 of NREPA) time frames. The MDEQ has acknowledged Pure Muskegon’s BEA Disclosure. The BEA is tool unique to Michigan law that provides liability protection to purchasers of contaminated property to facilitate safe redevelopment and reuse of former industrial and commercial properties. All known environmental releases reported by Sappi have been investigated by Melching and, through documentation and/or sampling, have been resolved in compliance with Michigan’s environmental remediation laws. Formal MDEQ approval of a non-residential site closure was triggered by the execution of the AOC.
- A large lime pile on the northwest portion of the property was identified by MDEQ as a likely release area. Melching’s investigations, conducted in coordination with MDEQ, resulted in an MDEQ-approved Lime Management Plan, which was included as part of the AOC. This plan included a series of options to address the conditions related to the high pH lime, including removal of the lime for beneficial reuse, such as farming, composting, and neutralizing coal ash.
- In accordance with the Lime Management Plan, Melching installed a groundwater CO2 sparge system to treat high pH groundwater emanating from the lime pile to protect the surface waters of Muskegon Lake. Further, Melching has relocated 185,500 tons of lime from the pile, mixing the lime with clean dredge sands for use as backfill in excavations resulting from demolition of subsurface structures . The lime pile has now been reduced to grade level, eliminating the mass of lime that was creating the high pH groundwater conditions. The groundwater treatment system, coupled with the lime pile removal efforts, has resulted in stabilized pH conditions that meet the MDEQ criteria for closure of the lime pile conditions. Lime remaining below the MDEQ-required elevation has been contoured so that runoff is directed to the south, away from Muskegon Lake. The area has also been covered with organic material to help neutralize the lime, and seeded with grass for stabilization and dust control purposes.
- A Brownfield Plan has been prepared, in coordination with the City of Muskegon and its Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, to allow new taxes generated from the redevelopment to be “captured” to pay for site preparation, infrastructure, and due care activities. The Brownfield Plan was approved by the Muskegon City Commission in March, 2017.
- A work plan to undertake Due Care and Geotechnical investigations across the entire 120 acre property has been developed and is underway. Using Federal Brownfield funds to conduct a portion of the work, information has been and will continue to be collected using a phased approach to understand subsurface conditions pertinent to redevelopment and reuse of the property.
- Part 201 Due Care documentation has been provided to the MDEQ, and continues to be updated as site conditions and use change. Please contact Abby Hendershott at MDEQ’s Grand Rapids office (616-888-0528, hendershotta@michiganlgov) to obtain copies of the due care documentation, which includes data and analytical summaries.
- Some residents near the site expressed concerns regarding dust after sustained high winds were experienced in early March 2017. Surface soil samples were subsequently collected as part of the above-mentioned Due Care investigations and compared to Michigan Part 201 cleanup criteria for residential/off-site exposures. The majority of dust generated would have come from active work areas lacking a vegetative cover, and in these areas, none of the samples indicated contaminants at concentrations of concern. Some metals and organic compounds were detected above applicable residential cleanup criteria in a small percentage of samples, but these samples were collected from stable areas that would not have contributed to dust. The vast majority of samples were representative of native background concentrations.
- In areas where demolition and grading activities are complete, seed is being applied in select areas to promote vegetative growth and stabilize soils.
Remaining Demolition and Stack Removal
- Melching Inc. has accelerated its demolition of the massive former paper mill over the past year, comprising over 1 million square feet under roof. The majority of the site has been cleared. Both surface and subsurface demolition (foundations, pipes, etc.) will be completed by December 31, 2017. This includes site clearing and backfilling with clean soils. The demolition activities are proceeding on schedule.
- The remaining stacks at the site have been found to contain 2-3% asbestos in the exterior paint coating. The asbestos coating will be abated and the stacks demolished over the next few months. An MDEQ Brownfield Grant for $1 Million has been awarded to the City of Muskegon to assist in this effort. Abatement and demolition activities are scheduled for July- September, 2017 Please see the City of Muskegon website www.muskegon-mi.gov for updated information regarding the City of Muskegon Public Safety emergency order to fell the older, easternmost stack due to structural instability creating a danger to workers on and near the stack.
- In 2012, Melching purchased the property from Sappi. No Baseline Environmental Assessment (BEA) was performed due to the contractual and deed restrictions placed on the property by Sappi. The failure to conduct a BEA resulted in Melching being considered a liable party for cleanup of releases at the property.
- Soon after its purchase, and with Sappi concurrence, Melching initiated environmental investigation activities. These investigations are ongoing and were undertaken to:
- Evaluate and implement its Due Care requirements under Part 201 of Michigan public act 451 relating to environmental protection and remediation;
- Evaluate and implement Part 201 Closure activities of all known releases; and
- Investigate and develop a cleanup plan for the Lime Pile.
- The sale of the property has allowed Pure Muskegon to conduct a Baseline Environmental Assessment and undertake additional investigations and related activities at the property.
- Federal EPA grants, Michigan Brownfield grants, loans and a Brownfield Plan with tax increment financing will continue to be pursued to assist in undertaking those environmental response activities at the property necessary to assure it is safe for residential and recreational uses.
For more information contact: Anne Couture, AnnePCouture@gmail.com