A concern for the nation’s environment is spreading across the country. Metropolitan cities, small cities, towns, villages and counties as a whole are beginning to listen to complaints and are becoming more alert to the growing problems. From groundwater contamination to clean air and water, proponents are springing into action.

Marinette and Menominee counties have seen large layers of contaminated soil and water cleaned up in recent years, including sections of the Menominee River. In more recent months, contamination investigations have been ongoing in the city of Marinette and the town of Peshtigo. State and federal agencies have joined local officials and the private sector in these investigations, which could become a long, drawn out and very costly probe.

We’d like to draw the attention of our readers to an ongoing investigation taking place in the Detroit area, which already has cost millions of dollars and likely will reach multi-millions before the problem is solved. It is likely to involve all Michigan taxpayers contributing to the cleanup, according to a story published in the Detroit Free Press.

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emergency response team spent more than three weeks in December vacuuming contaminated groundwater off the site where green, toxic ooze leached onto I-696 from a former electroplating company. But the response action will never fully clean up the site, officials from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) informed a state committee of the Michigan House of Representatives in mid-January. What’s needed, the Free Press reported, is the removal of contaminated soils beneath the former Electro-Plating Services business on 10 Mile in Madison Heights. And that will come with a not-yet determined but huge price tag that will likely be borne by taxpayers, according to the Free Press.

Tracy Kecskemeti, district coordinator for EGLE, told the Michigan House Appropriations Committee at a hearing in Lansing, the price tag will not be in the hundreds of thousands but the hundreds of millions. She said the goal of the cleanup is to remove contaminated groundwater and stop it from migrating off-site.

Electro-Plating Services owner Gary Sayers, now serving a one-year prison sentence after pleading guilty last year to illegal storage of hazardous waste, is the clear responsible party for the contamination along I-696, according to Kecskemeti as reported by the Free Press. She said under terms of the criminal case plea, Sayers has been ordered to pay the federal government nearly $1.5 million in restitution for the EPA’s emergency cleanup at the Madison Heights location in 2012. The EPA has not yet received any restitution, Kecskemeti noted, adding the state of Michigan is considering additional penalties for Sayers and requirements to make him responsible for further cleanup costs.

Madison Heights is in litigation with Sayers to get his building demolished. As you can imagine, a slew of other details need to be worked out because the I-696 corridor is one of Michigan’s busiest freeways. 

Michiganders haven’t heard the last of the I-696 crisis, nor have they heard the final price tag to undo the damage.