How the EPA wants to decontaminate Lansing's Adams Plating site

·4 min read

LANSING TWP. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a plan to address carcinogenic chemicals at Lansing Township’s Adams Plating Superfund site and a nearby home.

The plan, released this month, has two components. The first addresses how to deal with the Adams Plating site itself, an empty lot at 521 N. Rosemary St. that was home for decades to an electroplating company now known to use contaminants when degreasing materials. The second concerns a nearby house — residential property 7, or RP07 — affected by chemicals spread from the Superfund site more than its neighbors.

The proposal would require the installation of a vapor mitigation system for any future buildings constructed on the site. It would also install pipes into the basement floor of the house to vent out vapors, plus a pipe-vented cover for the basement sump.

Homes in the 500 block of North Grace Street in Lansing Township, seen Thurday, Nov. 18, 2021, across the street from lot where Adams Plating once stood. The empty lot is now an EPA Superfund cleanup site.
Homes in the 500 block of North Grace Street in Lansing Township, seen Thurday, Nov. 18, 2021, across the street from lot where Adams Plating once stood. The empty lot is now an EPA Superfund cleanup site.

Basement pipes, deed restrictions: the plan itself

The EPA proposed two plans for the house and one for the former Adams Plating site.

The site-specific plan, labeled APC-2, would update deed restrictions on the land itself to require the installation of a vapor mitigation system for any future buildings constructed on the property. The systems would be reviewed every five years.

RP07-3, the proposed plan for the residential property, includes:

  • Pipes installed in the home's basement floor routing harmful chemicals outside

  • A cover for the home's runoff collecting sump with its own pipe leading to open air

  • Annual inspections of the sump cover and pipes

  • A review of risk to human health every five years

  • A restrictive covenant ensuring the property owner implements vapor mitigation strategies.

The plan was picked over a similar option, RP07-2, that omits the basement floor pipe.

APC-2 has a projected cost of $29,000, with no annual operations and maintenance needed. RP07-3 has a projected cost of $169,000 between an initial $135,000 and a 30-year maintenance cost of $34,000.

Because Adams Plating is an "orphan site" — meaning there's no longer a party financially responsible for its cleanup — the cost would be split between the EPA and state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy with a 10% contribution from the state, according to Jessica Ferris, EGLE Superfund project manager for the site.

The parcel of land that once was home to Adams Plating in Lansing Township is now gated and locked with EPA Superfund cleanup site signage, seen Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021.
The parcel of land that once was home to Adams Plating in Lansing Township is now gated and locked with EPA Superfund cleanup site signage, seen Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021.

A temporary fix

During the planning phase, EGLE urged the EPA to categorize its proposal as an interim plan pending a larger investigation. Ferris said her department’s issues with the plan were worked out months in advance.

“The fact that originally EPA had not identified this as an interim remedy, that was concerning," Ferris said. "We have other issues with groundwater that need to be taken care of. If you were to just say ‘a remedy,’ then for our program that translates as a final remedy so nothing else would need to be done.”

A longer-term solution would address the groundwater at Adams Plating directly, which Ferris said requires additional investigation. With this plan, the immediate vapor intrusion can be addressed without being held up by the groundwater component.

A representative from the EPA was not immediately available for an interview.

Decades as a priority

In 1989, Adams Plating Company was added as a Superfund site to the National Priorities List, which identified hazardous contamination sites in the U.S.

But when the EPA developed its remediation plan in the 1990s, the science around vapor intrusion — the main target of the new plan — wasn’t advanced enough. Back then, the plan was to excavate and dispose of thousands of pounds of contaminated soil.

The chemicals remained, however, and decades of contamination were complicated by a massive 2010 fire destroying the company, spreading chemicals including cyanide and chromium into streets and basements via the thousands of gallons of water used to fight the blaze.

The current plan is the result of testing throughout the 2010s spurred by the fire that destroyed Adams Plating Company. Testing found notable vapor intrusion from volatile organic compounds in groundwater and soil at the site and in surrounding residences, identifying one to be treated in the current plan.

A 2017 Lansing State Journal report found the EPA did not share results of that testing with residents or the appropriate Michigan state agency for months, even as benzene levels in the house exceeded the state bar for evacuation.

The parcel of land that once was home to Adams Plating in Lansing Township is now gated and locked with EPA Superfund cleanup site signage at the North Grace Street entrance, seen Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021.
The parcel of land that once was home to Adams Plating in Lansing Township is now gated and locked with EPA Superfund cleanup site signage at the North Grace Street entrance, seen Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021.

Public comment sought

The EPA is accepting comments on the plan until Dec. 15. Public comments can be offered:

  • By mail, with commenters directed to mail the comment form to EPA’s Ruth Muhtsun at 77 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60604.

  • In a Nov. 30 virtual meeting, which will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. and allow attendees to submit an oral statement.

  • By email, sending their comments to Muhtsun at muhtsun.ruth@epa.gov.

The EPA’s final decision will be rendered in a detailed document known as a Record of Decision (ROD), which compiles notable public comments in a dedicated section. Ferris said public input in this period is very valuable to the EPA and EGLE.

“We don't want to go out there and do something that the public is not on board with,” Ferris said. “That is never our goal at any of our Superfund sites.”

Contact reporter Annabel Aguiar at aaguiar@lsjnews.com.

This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: How the EPA wants to address carcinogens at Lansing Adams Plating site

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