Warren’s Fouts asks state to probe Freedom Hill dumping

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts has officially called for the state’s attorney general to investigate what he says is illegal dumping at Freedom Hill Amphitheatre in Sterling Heights.

Fouts released a letter dated Wednesday asking Bill Schuette to probe the decision by Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel to allow a contractor to dump excavated dirt over the closed and capped landfill that is now a county park and music venue.

Andrea Bitely, a spokeswoman for Schuette, said Wednesday her office had not yet received the letter.

In the letter, Fouts notes the dumping was done without permission from the South Macomb Disposal Authority and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

“This situation could have resulted in an environmental disaster in our county,” Fouts wrote.

Hackel denies that there was anything illegal about the dumping project.

“There’s nothing here for the attorney general,” Hackel told The Detroit News. “This has to do with the mayor’s infatuation with me somehow. He is going to continue to beat this dead horse.”

The excavated dirt was used to create a berm county officials say damaged methane vent pipes, uprooted trees and caused leachate to leak.

The dumped material from Dan’s Excavating was meant to level the parking lot and create a berm that would be a sound barrier for residents living nearby and block headlights from shining into adjacent neighborhoods.

Deputy County Executive Mark Deldin admitted the county dropped the ball when it didn’t receive permits from the disposal authority and DEQ.

“We improved the parking situation but we created a concern about too much weight being on the landfill and that’s what we are remediating,” he said in a previous interview.

The disposal authority has jurisdiction over the landfill. Warren is among the the cities that make up the authority. The others are Center Line, Eastpointe, Roseville and St. Clair Shores.

“Warren’s percentage of this cost is 47 percent with the remainder of the costs going to other Macomb County cities that are SMDA members,” Fouts wrote in his letter to Schuette. “The SMDA has spent over $3 million to remediate the landfill to meet MDEQ requirements.”

In the letter, Fouts included the corrective action plan drafted by SMDA engineers last month.

Officials say remediation will include regrading the berm; repairing damaged vents, which are used to ensure that methane gas evaporates; replacing broken trees; and plugging holes with clean clay fill where leachate is seeping through.

Hackel said if there were any illegal activity, the SMDA or the experts involved in the remediation plan would have reported it.

“Every issue he has brought up has been nullified by the experts,” Hackel said.

Fouts claims the action plan for remediation was the result of his November Facebook post warning of environmental concerns at Freedom Hill.

He also suggests several questions he believes should be asked of Hackel including whether the dumping project violated state environmental laws; if Hackel showed favoritism to a company that flew him on a private jet to Baltimore for Tigers vs. Orioles games; and what financial arrangement did Hackel have with the contractor for the dumping project.

Deldin said the dumping project was a mutual favor between the county and the contractor. Generally, the county would have had to pay for dirt to build the berm, and the contractor would have to pay to dump its excavated dirt, he said.

Twitter: @NicquelTerry