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Posted on Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

DTE Energy calling cleanup of riverfront MichCon site in Ann Arbor a huge success

By Ryan J. Stanton

DTE Energy is calling a major environmental cleanup at the old MichCon site along the Huron River a huge success after more than four months of work.

The bulk of the project is complete now, and DTE has vowed to enter into close talks with the city of Ann Arbor about the future use of part of the site as a riverfront park.

"We hope to make the 14-acre site available for development, public use or both sometime in the near future," said Shayne Wiesemann, a DTE engineer overseeing the project.

Wiesemann said DTE will continue to work with the city, Huron River Watershed Council and other community stakeholders to determine the proper final end use for the site.

"If all the stars align perfectly, we are likely looking at a year or two before any redevelopment work begins," he said. "There may be additional remediation work required onsite, based on the proposed final end use, but that work would likely be performed during site preparation activities."


In this photo from Nov. 21, cap placement along the Huron River shoreline across from the outfall of the Argo Dam millrace is being completed following the removal of impacted soil and sediment. Larger stone was later placed along the water's edge to complete the shoreline restoration.

Courtesy of DTE Energy

The state required DTE to complete soil and sediment remediation at the site of the former MichCon plant at 841 Broadway St.

MichCon has been a subsidiary of DTE since 2001. It ran a manufactured gas plant along the south bank of the Huron River decades ago and left the site polluted — a problem DTE inherited and has been working cooperatively with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to address.

The recent remediation work was done by Terra Contracting with oversight by TRC Engineers, MichCon, the city of Ann Arbor and the DEQ.

Just before Christmas, crews completed excavation of more than 47,000 tons of impacted material from the site, backfilling, capping along the shoreline, and the bulk of the restoration work.

Because the scope of the project was increased (27 percent more material was excavated than originally planned), some shrub and tree planting along the eastern shore will be finished in the spring, Wiesemann said, suggesting the site should look a little nicer and greener once spring has come and the grass and trees are nicely vegetated.

DTE closely coordinated the cleanup efforts with the city's parks and recreation department and the Argo canoe livery to make sure the work had a minimal impact on livery operations, the Border-to-Border Trail and other recreational uses within the area.

"As we planned and discussed at multiple public meetings, MichCon and Terra paid very close attention to the project traffic, odor, dust and surface water controls to ensure the project did not cause any nuisance issues within the city," Wiesemann said.

Mayor John Hieftje said he looks forward to seeing the results of DTE's efforts. He said it's been a general goal of the city for decades to acquire more riverfront land for park use.

"I'm very happy to see the cleanup has made progress," Hieftje said. "When you're talking about property becoming parkland, it has to be cleaned up to a specific standard, and I haven't seen any of that data yet. It needs to be cleaned up to a very high level."

Hieftje said the city doesn't want to assume any liability for future environmental cleanup work. As for how the transfer of the land from DTE to the city might occur in the future, Hieftje said, that's yet to be determined, and the ball is largely in DTE's court at this point.


A map of the MichCon site on display at a meeting last April, showing the areas along the Huron River where DTE Energy planned to conduct an environmental cleanup. The remediation work done along the river's edge didn't address contamination elsewhere on the property.

DTE's plan all along was to dredge contaminated sediments from the main channel of the Huron River between Argo Dam and the Broadway bridges and also remove contaminated soils along the river banks to achieve an unrestricted residential cleanup standard.

That means, for instance, the area being cleaned up could be considered safe to use as a public park.

DEQ District Supervisor Mitch Adelman said it seems DTE has hit its mark and the DEQ is pleased to see the pollutants removed from the environment according to plan.

"It looks pretty good out there, from what we've seen," he said. "We look at it as a good next step in terms of bringing (the overall property) to closure."

The remediation work done along the river's edge didn't address contamination elsewhere on the property. For instance, there are cyanide-contaminated soils on the western portion of the property that haven't been cleaned up, Adelman said, noting that's a situation that both MichCon and the DEQ are aware of and it might require additional cleanup depending on the future use of that area.

While it appears DTE has cleaned up the portion along the river's edge to the point where there essentially are no more restrictions on it, Adelman said, DTE/MichCon still will be responsible for continuing to monitor and maintain the impermeable cap it put in place along the shoreline.

Wiesemann said MichCon ultimately is liable for remediating the remainder of the site to an "industrial" or "non-residential" cleanup level consistent with its use and zoning. He said that additional work likely will be performed during the redevelopment phase to take advantage of project synergies.

"However, if potential future developers or owners plan to change the property use to 'residential' or would like to construct a park, they will need to fund the additional cleanup that may be required in order for the property to meet the more stringent cleanup standards," he said.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 10:30 p.m.

One thing Ann Arbor does not have is an urban riverfront, we do have miles of park frontage happily. This property is the only place were there is good undeveloped frontage AND it's between our urban core and Lower Town (pedestrian freindly). EVEN BETTER- the railroad runs through it! Why our mayor suggests this property should be park while at the same time wanting to compromise a lovely river valley park to build a station kinda speaks to the leadership quality in the city; which is really poor, face it. It could become a wonderful part of urban Ann Arbor. with some creative leadership.

Basic Bob

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 10:45 p.m.

That lovely river valley park is covered in gravel and automobiles. Most who saw it would correctly identify it as hospital employee parking.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 7:43 p.m.

Can't wait to see my energy bill go up to pay for this.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 5:59 p.m.

Looks like a good place to build additional parking for the train station.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 5:11 p.m.

Success? What is successful about a huge company that continues to pollute the waterways and ground and air in Michigan? If DTE had been responsible in the first place and not dumped all that pollution into the ground and river, this article would not need to be written. I don't call this success. I call this PR. The Huron River supplies drinking water for communities in SE Michigan and DTE has polluted this waterway. DTE continues to be a major polluter in the state with its coal fired electricity plants and its plans to build more of them in the northern parts of the state. And their rates, surcharges and fees continue to increase as people conserve electricity and more efficient appliances are used. Nothing about DTE is a success story.

Basic Bob

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 10:36 p.m.

I don't think anyone intentionally drinks out of the Huron downstream of Ann Arbor. We use the Detroit River.

Kai Petainen

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 3:10 p.m.

This is a fantastic story. Great stuff DTE! DTE is a public company ... it would be nice to compare this pro-enviro good story with how Pall (another public company) hides the dioxane database from the public eye -- and how the local public is unable to see the results of the dioxane levels in the Ann Arbor groundwater. And Pall is a leader in water filtration? Based on this story, seems like DTE is the leader instead...


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 3:39 p.m.

FYI, Terra Contracting of Kalamazoo was just aquired by Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Corporation (GLDD) of Oak Brook, IL.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 2:32 p.m.

Great news, it only took a century (literally). Well about 65 years since the MGP site was taken out of use. By the way, they did not inherite the problem. They evaluated the risks associated with the aquisitiuon and made a chose to aquired the MichCon (and all its skeletons). 13 years later action. It's great that it is being done but do you give praise for simple doing what you were charged with doing in the first place?

Basic Bob

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 4:46 p.m.

Maybe we should praise them, since so many sites in Michigan have been contaminated and abandoned. The state didn't even rehabilitate the prisons and state hospitals it closed. That seems like a worthy trade to learn for the inmate population.

Dog Guy

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 2:31 p.m.

Just rusty pipes? Were no informative historical artifacts or trove of lunch bottles unearthed? I'm just a sedimental fool!


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 2:38 p.m.

Probably, but in this case they bathed in cyanide, benzene, PAHs . That, and an excavator makes a poor archaeologist.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 2:23 p.m.

I drive past this site every day, sometimes more and there is often an very distinct smell, kind of like melting fiberglass that makes you feel quite ill.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 2:17 p.m.

Thank you for such extensive coverage, esp the photos. They really help with understanding the scope of the work. It's gonna look wonderful.

David Cahill

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 1:47 p.m.

Good news and great progress! I look forward to a park here.

Linda Peck

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 1:46 p.m.

I am happy that Mayor Hieftje has expressed concerns about the quality of the clean up and wants to see the proof. I know he will pursue these concerns on our behalf as this moves forward.

Todd Hubbard

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

Any word on the whitewater feature ??? "DTE has vowed to pay for whitewater improvements along the river as part of the project."


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 12:19 p.m.

Thanks Ryan. This would be a huge draw to A2! too bad they didnt make the new cascade the whitewater area... ;(

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 5:07 p.m.

The city is taking the lead on the whitewater redesign and permitting efforts. I'm checking with the city's parks manager to find out what the latest is on that.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 1:17 p.m.

Not really time to celebrate. As the article states "The remediation work done along the river's edge didn't address contamination elsewhere on the property." There is still A LOT of pollution remaing on this site. Especially the large orange tank that they uncovered and then reburied. Any use other than a park or parking lot will require much addition clean up.

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 5:07 p.m.

According to DTE, the large orange tank was a brick manufactured gas tank foundation. Crews cleaned the manufactured gas plant residuals from the large tank and filled it with clean sand.

Brian Kuehn

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 1:01 p.m.

Thanks for the update, Ryan. The photos really give one an idea of the scope of the work, as opposed to my brief glimpses as I drive by. I hope the redevelopment brings something interesting to our City.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 12:55 p.m.

Glad they think it's a success, but they can't make that call, someone else needs to check their work.

Basic Bob

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 1:33 p.m.

Wow. They hired cleanup experts. They dredged and installed a cap. DEQ checked it. So did the city. I'm impressed.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 11:59 a.m.