Velsicol Chemical Corp. (Michigan) Superfund Site
Community Involvement Coordinator
Remedial Project Manager
Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality
(where to view written records)
T.A. Cutler Memorial Library
312 Michigan Ave,
St. Louis, Mich.
The Velsicol Chemical Corp. (formerly the Michigan Chemical Corp.) produced various chemical compounds and products at its 54-acre main plant site in St. Louis, Mich., from 1936 until 1978. To address contamination discovered at the former plant site, a consent judgment was entered into by Velsicol, EPA and the State of Michigan in 1982. Velsicol agreed to construct a slurry wall around the former plant site and put a clay cap over it. The Pine River borders the former main plant site on three sides and was known to also be significantly contaminated. The river sediment pollution was addressed at that time by the State of Michigan, which issued a no-consumption advisory for all species of fish in the Pine River. The fish advisory remains in effect today.
From 1998 to 2006 a variety of actions were taken at the site to address contamination in the Pine River at a cost of almost $100 million. In 2006, studies showed that the slurry wall surrounding the former plant site and the clay cap installed over it were failing to keep contamination on the site and out of the river. EPA and Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality then launched a remedial investigation and feasibility study at the main plant site, designating it as Operable Unit 1 (OU1) and designating the Pine River sediments is as Operable Unit 2 (OU2). The report was released in 2006 and stated that soil and ground water at the site are contaminated with a variety of chemicals. In 2009, it was recommended that additional investigation be done to more fully define the nature and extent of contamination.
This additional investigation was completed and a Feasibility Study issued in 2011. Then, in June 2012, a Record of Decision was signed for Operable Unit 1, which includes both the cleanup of contaminated soil in the residential-areas and a comprehensive cleanup of the main plant site. This portion of the cleanup covers the residential area cleanup, and the main plant site cleanup.
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EPA has completed cleanup work at approximately 35 homes and hopes to complete another 10 properties before the end of the construction season. Remaining properties in the residential cleanup will be remediated in 2015.
EPA tested soil at approximately 130 homes in the residential area for dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), hexabromobenzene (HBB), polybrominated biphenyl (PBB), as well as other chemicals, including Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Approximately 60 properties had levels of DDT or PBB exceeding EPA’s residential cleanup standards and are being remediated. EPA expects to remove approximately 40,000 tons of contaminated soil by the end of the cleanup in 2015.
During this residential cleanup, EPA is taking six air samples a day which measure DDT levels during excavation. These samples are located at the properties, but also throughout the area to monitor for the safety of residents and workers. No detections of DDT have been reported to date in the air monitoring. A few properties have low levels of PBB, as well as DDT contamination. Because the concentration of DDT in soil was higher than that of PBB, EPA chose to monitor for DDT as an indicator of whether contamination from soil was entering the air. HBB was not found in residential soil, so there is no need to monitor for that contaminant during excavation.
Air monitoring results for the residential cleanup are shared regularly with the Pine River Superfund Citizens Taskforce and can be found under the Technical Documents section of the Velsicol cleanup webpage.
A recent study of tree bark in central Michigan found evidence that concentrations of HBB, PBB, and DDT were higher closer to the plant facility as expected, however samples for all contaminants from that study were below EPA’s residential cleanup levels. While tree bark monitoring may provide some indication of historical contamination, EPA’s real-time air monitoring conducted during cleanup work provides an accurate measurement of air quality to ensure the safety of residents and workers.
EPA also used real-time air monitoring throughout the sediment cleanup of the Pine River from 1998 - 2006. A summary of that data can be found under the Technical Documents section of the Velsicol cleanup webpage. That report, from April 2010, is titled Remedial Action Report (PDF). Ambient air was monitored on the perimeter of the site throughout the construction season when cleanup activities occurred. DDT, PBB, and HBB were not detected during cleanup activities.
EPA and Michigan Department of Environmental Management are resuming cleanup and investigation activities to handle contamination from the former Velsicol Chemical Corp. Superfund site. Currently underway is the cleanup of the residential area next to the former Velsicol Chemical plant site, replacement of the St. Louis municipal drinking water supply and cleanup design work at the former chemical plant location.
EPA held an open house on May 28, 2014, to discuss the upcoming residential soil cleanup work and answer your questions.
In December 2012, EPA began the first phase of residential soil cleanup at 11 properties contaminated with the pesticide dichlorodiphenyl trichlorethane (DDT) and fire retardant polybrominated biphenyl (PBB). The DDT and PBB contamination is associated with the nearby Velsicol Plant. The Phase 1 cleanup was funded from money received as part of bankruptcy proceedings at the site. Residential soil cleanup is being initiated first because it will address site contamination closest to the area residents. Details of the cleanup activities are as follows:
- Phase 1 residential soil cleanup is expected to begin Dec. 17, 2012, and should be completed within 3-5 days.
- Approximately 250 tons of contaminated soil will be removed and covered with clean soil and erosion control matting. Excavated areas will be covered with sod in Spring 2013.
- Excavated soil will be taken off-site to an approved landfill.
- Residents should expect to see construction equipment and dump trucks in the neighborhood during this time.
- Safety procedures will be implemented to make sure the contamination does not spread to other residential areas and to protect worker safety.
- EPA and MDEQ Wrap Up 2014 Cleanup in Residential Area (PDF), (2 pp, 304KB) October 2014
- Fish Sampling Shows Early Signs of River Recovery (PDF), (2pp, 466KB) June 2014
- Public Comments on the Proposed Plan 2012 (92 pp, 3MB)
- EPA Proposes cleanup plan for soil and ground water (PDF) (6 pp, 1.4MB) February 2012 - Fact sheet about the proposed cleanup plan