EPA offers updates on former McLouth cleanup agreement

Trenton — The process to designate a portion of the former McLouth Steel Corp. as a federal Superfund site is expected to begin Sept. 13, the EPA said at a meeting with residents about cleanup of the now-shuttered steel mill.

From left, Kirstin Safakas, Community Involvement Coordinator with the EPA, and Darren Donnelly, Community Involvement Research Fellow with the EPA, greet people before a public hearing on the McLouth Steel settlement agreement for the southern portion of the site on Wednesday at the St. Paul Lutheran Church in Trenton.

The site will be designated as a National Priority List for cleanup. 

"We feel confident that the site is listable at this point," said Nuria Muniz, a Superfund National Priority List coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency.

About 120 residents who live in communities near the former McLouth site attended the meeting at St. Paul Lutheran Church on Edsel Street in Trenton.

The meeting was held to announce a settlement agreement between the federal and state governments to clean up 197 acres of the southern portion, some of which is suspected of containing PCBs and other potentially hazardous materials that could become airborne during the cleanup process. "Black lagoons" from runoff and sludge remain as a result of the mill activity, the EPA said.

McLouth Steel closed in 1995. The property at West Jefferson near Sibley Road is owned by the Wayne County Land Bank until the impending sale of 183 acres of the site to Crown Enterprise, which is owned by Manuel "Matty" Moroun, the owner of the Ambassador Bridge.

Under the agreement, the county will sell the property to Crown Enterprises for $4 million, but with the provision that the company invest $20 million in the property in three years.

Steve Kaiser, EPA Regional Counsel, speaks during a public hearing on the McLouth Steel settlement agreement. About 120 residents who live in communities near the site attended the meeting at St. Paul Lutheran Church on Edsel Street in Trenton.

Wednesday's meeting also sought feedback on the proposed agreement.

"We at the EPA have been trying to be more responsive to communities like your own," said Steve Kaiser.

Residents worry that substances in the lagoons and sludge could leach into the waterways nearby.

Kyle de Beausset of Grosse Ile said he doesn't trust the new owners of the property and he wasn't "happy with Wayne County's handling of this."

De Beausset said he wants the EPA "do more than assess" the property. He added that he is concerned about hazardous materials such as PCBs, heavy metals and other toxic chemicals running off the site and into the river. 

Many residents wonder what will happen to the site under the new owners.

Trenton resident Kirsten Brockmiller sought more details on the settlement.

"If we don't have answers to the questions what ... are we entering into a settlement agreement for?" said Brockmiller.

Under the agreement, 45 structures will be demolished, asbestos-containing material will be removed and materials containing PCBs will be contained..

"This is what we think of as an orphan site," said Kaiser. "The people who caused the contamination are not around. The real heavy lifting will be done with federal dollars."

Officials said more meetings are planned to discuss the cleanup of the site.