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Trenton — The future of the former McLouth Steel Corp. site is now in the hands of Manuel “Matty” Moroun after the Wayne County Land Bank transferred the deed of the property to the billionaire's Crown Enterprises.

But it remains unclear exactly what that future might hold.

"We're going to be getting the site ready for development, but it will take a few years," said Moroun's son, Matthew, at a celebration held Thursday afternoon at the property.

The site was purchased last year for $4 million by Crown, the development arm of the Moroun companies, following years of moves to restore the former facility near West Jefferson and Sibley that McLouth Steel operated until the 1990s after the company filed for bankruptcy.

The transfer marked the end of a two-year process. Demolition of the steel plant now is expected to take approximately 24 months. Crown’s investment of $20 million toward improving the site should occur within 72 months, according to county officials.

Matthew Moroun acknowledged Thursday that people have been asking him what's going to be done with the property. He offered a brief answer.

"First, there are 47 buildings that must be torn down," he said.

Local officials, meanwhile, touted the deed transfer to the Morouns as the result of heavy collaboration.

"Everyone was motivated to bring this to a successful conclusion," Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said during the afternoon ceremony.

"This is an exciting day for me. As I look at McLouth Steel, it reminds me of the old train station in Detroit. When everything is going well, and then you drive past it, you lose momentum. As good as everything else might be, it pulls us back in the wrong direction."

The Wayne County Commission approved the proposal for Crown to raze structures at the site within two years and invest the $20 million on the property in six years while possibly building automotive manufacturing and logistics centers there.

Officials had sought public input on the settlement through last month.

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the state Department of Environmental Quality and U.S. Department of Justice approved a legal agreement involving the purchase, assessment and clean-up of the property.

The land purchase agreement includes the EPA's proposal to add the parcel's entire 197-acre southern portion to the Superfund National Priorities List to address issues not covered by the settlement. The Superfund list includes the most serious uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the United States.

Some of the site was suspected to contain PCBs and 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 has said.

“Inclusion on the NPL will make work in the southern section eligible for federal funding,” the agency said in an earlier statement.

The deal called for MSC Land Co. and Crown to buy 183 acres from the Wayne County Land Bank and clarifies the companies’ cleanup responsibilities, federal officials said. 

Among the cleanup requirements:

  • Demolishing about 45 structures
  • Removing asbestos-containing material, containerized waste and materials containing PCBs from all structures prior to demolition
  • Installing a fence around the property
  • Removing contaminated water and sludge from 23 subsurface structures, such as pits, basements and lagoons
  • Investigating five areas where PCBs may have been released
  • Assessing and report on options for stormwater management to eliminate uncontrolled flow to the Trenton Channel of the Detroit River

The EPA is expected to continue to investigate and manage existing contamination on the property.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, said the Trenton property holds a special place in her life.

“I toured McLouth Steel when I married John, and it’s been sitting here as a memory of good things and not so good things for 25 years," she said at Thursday's event. "... I'm glad to be here with Crown Enterprises. We need to stop looking backward. Today is about looking forward."

Looking back at the property, McLouth Steel had not operated on the site since the late 1990s. The factory was purchased and operated by Detroit Steel Co. until it ceased operations and local operators purchased the plant land.

In 2006, a proposal to turn the property into a residential-commercial site called the Bay Village of Trenton failed. A proposal to renovate the site for more than $200 million and produce steel again there also failed.

After Wayne County acquired the 183 acres of the 197-acre southern portion through tax foreclosure last year, the county entered into a purchase and development agreement with Crown Enterprises. The remaining acres are still owned by DSC LLC.

To conclude Thursday's ceremony, the old sign, “Detroit Steel Company,” was torn down in one fell swoop by a large yellow crane.

Trenton Mayor Kyle Stack expressed her joy and near disbelief over the redevelopment of the property.

“Please pinch me because I can’t believe this is going on,” she said. "This is a monumental day in the life of Trenton. Never did I believe this would happen in my life.”

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