Cleanup Project Expands, Contamination Found

Publication Date: 11/06/2010
Source: Record-Eagle, The (Traverse City, MI)

Nov. 06–GREILICKVILLE — Additional contamination discovered at a former dry-cleaning and laundry business forced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to expand cleanup efforts there.

The EPA planned to remove about 380 cubic yards of contaminated soil at the former Grand Traverse Overall Supply Co. site on Cherry Bend Road. But further testing and cleanup in 2008 and 2009 revealed more severe and wide-ranging contamination, said Donald Bruce, a regional supervisor with the EPA Superfund program in Chicago.

The EPA plan in 2007 called for its time-critical removal unit to excavate 1,000 tons of highly contaminated soil that required disposal as a hazardous material, along with 10,000 tons that could go in a regular landfill.

But the amount of hazardous material was more extensive, and Bruce said a new area of oily, contaminated soil was discovered north of the building. The agency stopped digging when it overshot its $2 million budget after removing 2,075 tons of the most contaminated soil, Bruce said.

“That still left a huge volume of soil to address,” Bruce said.

The EPA now proposes to spend $1.2 million to dig up 7,480 cubic yards of contaminated soils, enough to fill about 748 dump trucks.

It’s not the first time federal regulators underestimated contamination at the site. In 1991, the EPA originally ruled no cleanup was necessary, though its crews failed to test beneath the laundry building.

The EPA took on the site again in 2005, following state regulators’ discovery of contaminated groundwater flowing under neighboring Norris Elementary School into West Grand Traverse Bay.

Contamination came from soil underneath the laundry plant and was rife with dry-cleaning chemicals such as tetrachloroethylene, also known as PCE, and trichloroethylene, also known as TCE.

EPA officials erected a soil vapor extraction system around Norris elementary in 2005 to prevent gasses in the soil from entering the building. It removed the laundry building and soil in late 2007 and 2008.

The EPA will hold a public hearing on its amended cleanup plan Nov. 9 at 6:30 p.m. at Elmwood Township’s offices. It will accept public comment on its proposed action until Nov. 28.

Bruce said regulators hope to make a final decision in December with excavation to begin in late summer. Cleanup is expected to take six months.

Following the excavation, the EPA will begin a pump-and-treat groundwater program it expects to take at least six years to reduce contaminants to within safe drinking levels. The property then would be available for unrestricted use.

Leelanau County currently owns the property after Iceless Co. LLC defaulted on its taxes. The EPA placed liens on the property “until liability for costs and damages are satisfied,” said Chelly M. Roush, county treasurer.

Roush said the county hasn’t given any thought to the site’s future use.

“If it ever comes to the point where we can actually do something with the property, then we’ll take it to our county board and land bank authority,” Roush said.

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