Seventeen Downriver residents have been appointed to a community advisory group — CAG — for the McLouth Steel Superfund cleanup.
The federal Superfund National Priorities List is administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Superfund was created to clean up some of the nation’s most contaminated lands and to respond to environmental emergencies, oil spills and natural disasters.
Trenton Councilwoman Wendy Pate, a founder of Trenton Visionaries and Stakeholders, is one of those appointed to the McLouth Steel CAG. Members were appointed Feb. 13 at a public meeting in Trenton.
“A CAG is meant to help educate residents about the cleanup, as well as provide feedback to those involved in the cleanup about citizens’ concerns and suggestions, so that better decisions can be made regarding the cleanup process,” she said. “The EPA coordinators took all our suggestions and created the foundation for the CAG.”
The group will meet from 7 to 9 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month starting in March.
According to EPA Public Affairs Specialist Adrian Palomeque, the appointed members are:
- Jim Wagner representing the city of Trenton where he was city administrator
- Dean Workman representing the city of Riverview where he is a councilman
- Russell Bodrie representing Grosse Ile Township where is assistant fire chief
- Brian Webb representing the Riverview Brownfields Authority
- Wendy Pate representing Trenton Visionaries and Stakeholders
- Doug Thiel representing the Grosse Ile Nature and Land Conservancy
- Greg Karmazin representing the Grosse Ile Civic Association
- Paul Frost representing the Downriver Waterfront Conservancy
- Elmer Trombley representing Past Employees of McLouth Steel
- Robert V. Johnson representing abutters (residents or property owners near the cleanup site)
At-large Trenton, Riverview and Grosse Ile residents named to the group are: Ryan Stewart and Edie Traster of Trenton; Dick Whitwam of Rockwood, executive director of the Pointe Mouilee Waterfowl Festival; Grosse Ile residents Larry Ladomer, Judith Maiga and Dennis O’Brien; and Mary Bohling, an educator with Michigan State University Extension’s Michigan Sea Grant and a member of the Detroit River Public Advisory Council
More members may be appointed in the future to represent Trenton Brownfields Authority, Friends of the Detroit River, Downriver Walleye Federation and the Trenton Business Association.
The Trenton McLouth complex is 197 waterfront acres of derelict buildings and 23 heavily polluted subsurface structures, including pits, basements and lagoons directly across the Trenton Channel of the Detroit River from Grosse Ile. The site’s Superfund cleanup is already underway.
The steel plant site now is owned by billionaire Manuel Moroun’s family company Crown Enterprises Inc., and MSC Land Co. LLC, also a Moroun business.
The Trenton McLouth Steel plant, first opened in 1949, was once celebrated as an industry leader. The company brought in notable technological advances in its early years.
McLouth was the first plant in North America to use an oxygen process to convert iron to steel, raising production and creating a superior product to meet the automotive industry’s demands.
For decades, the plant employed thousands of workers, and from miles away, residents could see Downriver’s eastern night skies turn a fiery orange when molten metal was poured.
Imported steel from Japan and Europe, depressed prices, changes in construction materials to plastics, and economic recession all took their toll on McLouth in the early 1980s, and a new owner eventually purchased the once thriving company, which was now in bankruptcy.
In 1995, McLouth filed again for bankruptcy and the property was transferred to multiple owners between 1996 and 2017, when Wayne County foreclosed on the site, leading to its purchase by the Moroun companies, and then to the Superfund cleanup agreement with MSC Land.
Moroun’s companies have proposed to redevelop the waterfront property, once the cleanup is complete, for an industrial project described in Wayne County documents as an intermodal shipping port. Many Downriver residents oppose that plan.
“This type of redevelopment will create a huge negative impact on our roads, air, waters and land that in turn will reduce home values in the region,” states a narrative on actionnetwork.org. “It also creates a safety hazard with frequent bridge closures and heavy truck and freight train traffic. No one wants to live near a shipping port. They are loud, noisy, dirty and harmful to the environment and roads and lead to a decline in overall quality of life in the surrounding areas.”
A petition opposing the redevelopment plan has more than 1,200 signatures to date.
Signers say they’d rather see a mixed-use redevelopment with some sort of access to the Detroit River.
In May, more than 50 Grosse Ile residents concerned about the redevelopment plan attended a township board meeting, where the board unanimously voted to approve a resolution voicing those concerns. The resolution was sent to the city of Trenton.
The advisory group’s purview is only the cleanup, not the redevelopment plan.
“While the CAG is not a policy-making body, the CAG can learn about these decisions being made about the levels of cleanup and development,” Pate said.
“With more knowledge about cleanup and the possibilities for moving forward at the old McLouth property, it is my hope that Trenton and the landowners can negotiate a development that benefits both parties by using a sustainability model that incorporates greenspace, community interaction, an eco-friendly footprint that protects our river’s ecosystem, and that provides a high quality place for people to live and work.”