Revere Dock fined $60,000 for materials, collapse into Detroit River

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — The owner of a controversial dock along the Detroit River will pay $60,000 in penalties for violations tied to a dock collapse last fall. 

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy announced Monday that it has reached an administrative consent agreement with Revere Dock LLC related to the Nov. 26,  2019 collapse.

The consent agreement cited four alleged violations of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act for discharging a substance into the waters that could injure the public or wildlife, violations of due care responsibilities as well as improper permitting. 

The Revere Copper site on Jefferson Ave. in southwest Detroit.

The fines, which must be paid by Oct. 17, include $15,000 toward the cost of investigation and enforcement activities and a civil fine of $45,000 for violating the Water Resources Protection and Inland Lakes and Streams sections of the national resources act, environmental officials said. 

In conjunction with the agreement, state environmental regulators have issued a permit with stipulations that allow Revere Dock to proceed with a restoration plan submitted in March. The plan calls for the installation of a 600-foot steel seawall at the site at 5851 West Jefferson Avenue.

"Revere Dock will also remove sediment and bank failure material that spilled into the river when approximately 200 feet of dock collapsed after the placement of a large aggregate stockpile near the shoreline," the state said in a news release. "The work plan includes measures to limit the disturbance of historically contaminated sediments in the river and to properly dispose of material dredged from the site."

Revere Dock President Steve Erickson could not be immediately reached Monday for comment. 

The agreement reached Sept. 17 compels Revere Dock to complete the permitted work. The restoration work is to be completed by July 2021, the state said. 

Justin Onwenu, an environmental justice organizer in Detroit for the Sierra Club, said the restoration timeline is longer than people would like but the financial penalties are a positive step.

"I'm glad to see that they are being held accountable in some shape or form at the state level," Onwenu said. "The $60,000 fine is something that is long overdue."

The Sierra Club is among those providing input for a proposed Detroit River Protection Ordinance sponsored by Detroit Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez that aims to address "gaps and failures" in the controls for companies operating along the Detroit River. The ordinance introduced in February remains under review. 

"In a lot of ways, the Revere Collapse was awful but it's made people a lot more aware of all the gaps in the current laws we have," Onwenu said. "Hopefully they will get addressed sooner than later."

The city of Detroit sued Revere Copper earlier this year over dock restoration and improper storage on the site and slapped the firm with tens of thousands in fines for amassing up to 40,000 tons of limestone there since summer 2019 without a permit. 

The company gained ownership of the long-vacant Revere site in Detroit in 2015 and leased it to Detroit Bulk Storage.

The illegal operation was uncovered by the city's building department after the collapse, which prompted worries of contamination since potentially dangerous materials, including uranium, were handled there in the 1940s to develop nuclear weapons under the Manhattan Project. 

Detroit officials have said Revere Dock obtained permits in August 2016 for site alterations and improvements and later secured electrical permits. But never submitted a permit to have storage of aggregate materials.

Detroit's law and building departments noted in a Monday statement that an agreement was reached in May that required Revere Dock to obtain permits from the state and U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to restore the dock. 

"Since that settlement was made and pursuant to its terms, the City has received $63,000 from Revere Dock, LLC, to redress blight violations and fines associated with the collapsed dock and improper storage," according to the city of Detroit. 

The city has conducted joint inspections of the restoration and river remediation work with the site operator, EGLE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

"We are confident that the elements outlined within the settlement agreement, provide the most effective means in accomplishing the Detroit River remediation," the statement reads. 

EGLE was first notified of the November collapse on Dec. 4. During an inspection, state state confirmed that soils, asphalt, concrete, steel and aggregate had been displaced into the river.

Subsequently, a sinkhole developed after the removal of some of the aggregate material onshore.

The site was the former home of Revere Copper and Brass Co., which operated there for more than 60 years. 

From 1943 to 1946, Revere Copper and Brass produced uranium rods at its Detroit plant and during the late 1940s and early 1950s rolled or produced uranium rods under a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense, according to U.S. Department of Energy records. Chemicals such as beryllium and thorium were handled on the site, government records show.

The site was considered to have "residual radiation" until it closed in 1984 and the manufacturing facility was demolished. 

After Revere Copper was shuttered and demolished, the Atomic Energy Commission and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined there was no radiological contamination on-site.

Tests by EGLE following the dock collapse registered the presence of radiation at normal background levels.