Source: http://theoaklandpress.com, August 16, 2011
By: J. Patrick Pepper
The U.S. government has agreed to pay more than $10.8 million for environmental cleanup related to military manufacturing in the city’s South End.
Ford Motor Co. and Severstal North America will split the money, which is to be used for environmental remediation at the Rouge complex and adjacent property. Ford on Friday filed documents in U.S. District Court in Detroit that detail the terms of the deal that, if approved by Judge Bernard Friedman, would end a 7-year-old lawsuit.
The litigation began in 2004 when Ford filed suit against the government seeking contributions for federally mandated clean-up work on the site. Ford reasoned that because the government has at various times seized control of the facilities for wartime manufacturing, it should be responsible for helping pay some of the estimated $99 million future tab for removal of pollutants and contaminants that have accumulated due to nearly a century of heavy industrial activity at the site.
Upon its completion in 1917, the complex immediately was thrust into defense manufacturing, producing submarine-chasing Eagle Boats for the Navy in World War I. During World War II, airplane parts, trucks, jeeps and other military machines were built at the complex.
The 1,200-acre complex has been home to blast furnaces, steel mills and foundries, as well as plants for metal stamping, engines, glass and tires. It has produced large amounts of coal tar and other waste.
A May court filing said the site has as much as 65 million gallons of wastewater in ponds and lagoons. Ford sold the steelmaking part of the site to Severstal in 2004.
Other environmental lawsuits remain unresolved. In 2008, Ford and Severstal sued a unit of DTE Energy Co. over environmental claims. The suit centers on 22 acres near the Rouge complex that Michigan Consolidated Gas Co. sold to Ford in 1968 to expand a wastewater treatment plant. MichCon countersued over what it said was environmental damage to its remaining property in the area.
MichCon also sued the U.S. government over the decision of the Army Corps of Engineers to rechannel the Rouge River in the 1960s, saying that caused the continuing release of hazardous materials.
In 1962, Congress authorized a flood control project that included widening and straightening the Rouge River in the vicinity of the disputed land, according to court filings.
The resulting plan for that area was for the Army Corps of Engineers to realign the river, effectively shifting it southwest away from Schaefer Road. Consequently, some land moved from the “MichCon side” of the river to the “Ford side.”
In 1968, Ford purchased 22 acres on what would be the new Ford side, thereby expanding its 26-acre parcel between Schaefer Road and the Rouge River to 48 acres.
The U.S. government executed the planned realignment from 1970 to ’73, cutting a new river channel through a portion of the former MichCon property.
Of the recently finalized agreements among Ford, Severstal and the government, nearly $6.6 million covers the original Rouge complex property, while the other $4.25 million agreement covers a 48-acre parcel southwest of the complex, which includes the 22-acre MichCon parcel.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)