Commissioners listen to update on Cliffs-Dow site

MARQUETTE — Attorney Richard Baron from Foley, Baron, Metzger and Juip PLLC presented an annual report regarding the remediation efforts at the former Cliffs-Dow property during the Marquette City Commission meeting Monday night.

Baron was hired on as a special counsel by the city, which now owns the former industrial site.

In the early 1900s Cliffs-Dow Chemical Company produced charcoal and wood chemical derivatives until it was sold to Georgia-Pacific in 1968. Operations ended a year later. The city bought the property located along Lakeshore Boulevard between Wright and Hawley Streets for $1 in 1997.

Since 2009, the city has monitored the site as requested by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. According to Baron, the city hired TriMedia Environmental and Engineering and a special counsel to obtain data by testing groundwater and soil, fearing what residual contaminations from historic Cliffs-Dow operations might be migrating into Lake Superior.

“What was done was the insulation of monitoring wells,” Baron said. “Groundwater surface interface monitoring wells and inland wells — those are the monitoring wells closest to the lake that monitor anything entering Lake Superior.”

Baron proposed a new five-year monitoring plan that, he said, will have to be accepted by the state.

“When we submit our plan we’ll be asking the state to approve no further action for the Cliffs-Dow site other than the monitoring plan,” he said. “No further action doesn’t mean there’s no possible other issues with the site. But what it’ll mean in this circumstance is that where the state said you need to check out the groundwater and do some further evaluation, we have done that, we have the data … and the state hopefully will agree with us, that if we do what we say we’re going to do in the monitoring plan — if we don’t exceed any of the criteria the state has published for the chemicals of concern — that we don’t have to do anything else on the site.”

Baron said the site would have to be monitored for a minimum of five years.

“The state needs to see we have consistent data that’s reliable,” he explained. “Then, of course, if there’s a change in the construction of the wells — if a well had to be relocated for construction — we’d have to re-evaluate that and depending on what the data looked like, we could monitor further.”

In other business Monday, the commission:

≤ Authorized city staff to utilize the state of Michigan Extended Purchasing Program to purchase one police patrol, one police SUV and five public works vehicles at a price not to exceed $207,710.

≤ Scheduled a public hearing for Dec. 18 to consider an amendment to adjust water and sewer rate calculation factors, effective with the Jan. 1 billing cycle. There is no increase in billing revenue, only a change in how it is calculated, according to city documents.

≤ Approved changes to the U.P. Concrete Company contract in the amount not to exceed $24,835 for the Father Marquette Park accessibility and improvement project.

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is