City to seek cleanup grant for Cliffs-Dow parcel

Mac McClelland, manager of Mac Consulting Service, LLC, discusses the city of Marquette’s application for a cleanup grant at the former Cliffs-Dow site on Thursday at the Municipal Service Center. (Journal photo by Christie Mastric)


Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — Public input was heard on Thursday at the Municipal Service Center regarding the city of Marquette applying for an Environmental Protection Agency brownfield cleanup grant for work at the former Cliffs-Dow site along Lakeshore Boulevard.

Mac McClelland, manager of Mac Consulting Service, LLC, discussed the application, which is due Nov. 22, and fielded questions from the public.

“There’s lots of work to do over that time, but we’re trying to gain some resources to deal with an industrial legacy problem that’s happening,” McClelland said.

The grant request will be for $964,250.

According to the draft application, the Cliffs-Dow property is a 46-acre parcel that manufactured charcoal pig iron from 1902 until the 1930s, after which acetic acid and methanol, as well as charcoal, were produced until 1969.

Wastes and byproducts generated at the site throughout its operational history, the city indicated in the application, included benzene. Fill materials and tar are among the materials found at the site as well.

Cleanup grant activities will be conducted in the primary impact area, located in the northeast section of the city, and will have a positive impact on the future beneficial use of a 46-acre property lot owned by the city.

The EPA brownfield cleanup grant will provide critical resources to treat contaminated soil and groundwater that has been migrating toward Lake Superior. A key outcome of the remediation funded by the EPA cleanup grant will be to pave the way for redevelopment, providing jobs and housing, increasing property tax base, and removing an environmental threat to the residents and neighborhood surrounding the Cliffs-Dow site, the draft application stated.

One of the key factors for the redevelopment is to adequately address the environmental conditions that will provide for safe reuse of the property.

The cleanup grant will directly support remediation that will provide for the redevelopment, the draft application indicated. The redevelopment plan is also integrated with the realignment of Lakeshore Boulevard with a resilient design and expansion of waterfront public space and access.

The cleanup grant will provide critical funds necessary to prevent migration of contaminated groundwater into Lake Superior, protect human health and the environment, and provide the opportunity to develop housing on a 46-acre site in a key area of the city, with up to 500 residential units, ranging from senior living and townhomes to rental apartments serving a range of income levels.

Mikael Kilpela, Marquette city engineer, indicated that the Veridea Group LLC had expressed interest in developing the site but no action has yet been determined.

“Wonderfully, the EPA has the dollars to be able to help communities clean up contamination on publicly owned properties,” McClelland said.

The proposed approach, McClelland said, involves injecting chemical oxidants into the groundwater plume to degrade the contamination, which is a fairly rapid treatment that does not generate a lot of waste.

He said there still might be some contaminants left, but the idea is to bring the concentrations down to safe levels.

He noted that the types of oxidants to be used have not yet been determined.

“That certainly is a careful part of the pilot study,” McClelland said.

He said the city should know by April if the funds are granted, with money available by October. Depending on the weather, the project would be a one-year process.

“This is a great step forward, because it’s the first time the city has found somebody to help,” said Margaret Brumm, who has a background in chemical engineering.

The difficulty with the grant, she noted, is there is no recorded situation where the topography matched with what is found at the site.

“It’s very far north,” Brumm said. “The rocks are very unique. The fact (is) that most of the time nothing moves underground because it’s so cold, but when it does move, it oozes upward, and therefore that could be addressed in this as well because your experimental work should be done under cold conditions.”

Public awareness is another issue, she noted.

“There’s a whole generation of people that don’t even know Cliffs-Dow exists, and there’s a whole generation of people who know darn well it exists and it hasn’t gone away, but the disconnect between the two is very, very large,” Brumm said.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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