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Posted on Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

DTE using odor controls as workers remove contaminated soil at former MichCon site in Ann Arbor

By Amy Biolchini

Editor's note: This story was updated at 4:25 p.m. with comments from DTE Energy's engineer.

Odor controls — including daily applications of foam and masking spray — are being used as crews work to excavate contaminated soils from the former MichCon site along the Huron River in Ann Arbor.

DTE Energy began a $3 million environmental remediation project this month on the property it inherited by acquiring MichCon.

The most intense part of the work at the site off Broadway Street began this week, as crews from Terra Contracting of Kalamazoo began digging out contamination from hot spots where underground structures left over from a manufactured gas industry still hold residues from years of burning coal and oil to make gas.

Five air monitors placed around the site check for levels of particulate matter, volatile organic compounds and methane as a safety precaution.

The dirt being removed may smell like creosote or mothballs, but officials from DTE have said the odor does not indicate there's a health risk.

To control odors from the site, workers use a floral-smelling masking agent sprayed through a Piian mist sytem during the day, said Shayne Wiesemann, senior project manager for DTE.

At night, workers apply a layer of Rusmar foam that creates a crust-like barrier over the exposed soils to keep the odor down.

Both measures are biodegradable and non-toxic, Wiesemann said. The company has not received complaints about the odor to date, Wiesemann said.

Dirt removed from the site is not considered to be hazardous waste and workers are trucking it to the Veolia Arbor Hills Type 2 Sanitary Landfill in Northville, where it likely will be dumped over the household trash as daily cover.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Fri, Oct 19, 2012 : 5:04 a.m.

I walked over the Broadway bridge at about 11 on Tuesday night and the odor of creosote was pretty bad. Like walking on fresh railroad ties. Must have run out of Rusmar or it washed off.

Shayne Wiesemann

Sat, Sep 29, 2012 : 12:46 p.m.

Go questions! Spyker - The levels of contamination in the site soils exceed long-term health standards, but do not rise to levels that would classify the material as "hazardous". The material is being taken to the sanitary landfill because this affords the highest level of site clean-up and is very cost effective. The type of clean-up that you mention is called in-situ solidifiction, and can be very expensive. Sandy - The Rusmar foam and Piian mist are completely non-toxic and biodegradable. We wouldn't want to do anything during the clean-up that would add contaminants Nerak - We do our best to control dust on-site and our monitoring systems show that we are doing a good job. There is some other work going on in the area that might be a source of dust. I do appreciate your feedback and will pass the info along to our crews.


Sat, Sep 29, 2012 : 11:40 a.m.

Make that "odor'" it was very orderly. (My bad.)


Sat, Sep 29, 2012 : 11:38 a.m.

I was coming home in the early evening Friday, southbound on the Broadway Bridges and then on Summit and Depot. I didn't notice any order, but I was startled by how much dust was coming off that site. It was like a hazy cloud all over the Summit/Fourth/Depot neighborhood. Looks like even more needs to be done to manage the site.

sandy schopbach

Sat, Sep 29, 2012 : 6 a.m.

But what's in the white foam? Is THAT non-pollution? And the perfumed mist? I'm glad they're cleaning the site up and appreciate that they want to keep odors down, but sometimes you can do more harm than good in such a situation.

Richard Carter

Sat, Sep 29, 2012 : 2:54 p.m.

From the article: "non toxic"


Sat, Sep 29, 2012 : 2:08 a.m.

I heard they may turn part of this into a park and the rest sold off for redevelopment. I really hope not another tower of apartments. Although this would be a great spot to put that new train station in.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 11:57 p.m.

If the dirt is non-hazardous, then why is it being removed? If it is hazardous, then why is it going to a sanitary landfill? Is the dirt being removed in an effort to create a site for commercial development which has soils with residential grade cleanliness? This project reminds me of the Persistence of Filth Theorem: "It is impossible to get anything clean without getting something else dirty. However, it is possible to get everything dirty without getting anything clean." Many other Manufactured Gas Plant sites across the country are currently being remediated using in situ cement solidification of the soils. Cambridge, MA; Nyack, NY; Macon, GA (2004). I wonder what is different about this site?

Kai Petainen

Sat, Sep 29, 2012 : 6:13 a.m.

good question


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 9:47 p.m.

Bravo DTE, this part of town is shaping up nicely.

Amy Biolchini

Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 8:04 p.m.

Our photographer, Courtney Sacco, said the masking spray used on the site smelled like the cleaning product Pine-Sol.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 7:55 p.m.

Happy to see we're fixing this site up.