Michigan site added to Superfund list, rated one of the most toxic in nation

Carol Thompson
The Detroit News

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency added a former metal plating facility in Jackson to its list of Superfund sites on Thursday, putting the contaminated site among the most toxic in the country.

Michner Plating-Mechanic Street is a four-acre parcel in a mixed residential and commercial portion of Jackson adjacent to the Grand River. There are four buildings on the property and "extensive contamination," according to an EPA document about the new listing.

The property's floor drains are contaminated with arsenic, hexavalent chromium and other solvents and metals. The drains discharge into the Grand River, soil or groundwater. Nearby soils, including near a public walkway, are contaminated with "high concentrations" of volatile organic compounds, according to the EPA document, and PFAS or "forever chemicals" have been detected in the groundwater underneath the site.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency added a former metal plating facility in Jackson, Michigan, to its list of Superfund sites on Friday, putting the contaminated site among the most toxic in the country.

"To keep the workers from breathing toxic chrome fumes when they were molten, they misted the area with an oil," Jackson County Drain Commissioner Geoffrey Snyder said. "Turns out, the oil is PFAS. I'm not sure what happened to the workers, but there is PFAS standing in the building in the Grand River, Michigan's longest river, finding its way to the Great Lakes."

More than 65,000 people obtain drinking water from private groundwater wells within a four-mile radius of the site; almost half of those wells are within one or two miles of the site.

The facility operated operated from 1938 to 2007 and had long been known as a problem by state environmental regulators — EPA documents say the state "issued numerous violation notices to the facility beginning in 1989 and nearly every year until it ceased operations in 2007."

The EPA removed approximately 1,100 drums and hundreds of 55-gallon totes from the site as of 2016, the document reads, but buried drums remain beneath the building. It's unclear what was in those drums and totes.

Jackson County now owns the property and plans to redevelop it once the cleanup is through. 

"I'm glad for the designation," Snyder said. "I'm glad that they have taken an interest in it and will participate in the funding of the cleanup."

The agency added 11 sites on Friday in addition to Michner Plating to its Superfund program. 

"No community deserves to have contaminated sites near where they live, work, play, and go to school," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said. "Nearly two out of three of the sites being proposed or added to the priorities list are in overburdened or underserved communities."The federal bipartisan infrastructure act put $3.5 billion into the Superfund Remedial Program, a "historic investment" officials say will allow the EPA to remediate 49 contaminated sites where cleanup has not been funded.

More:Ten Mile Drain among four Michigan superfund sites getting cleanup aid

ckthompson@detroitnews.com