DEQ boss tours area projects

Source: Monroe News
By: Charles Slat

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant got a glimpse Friday of local efforts to reclaim old industrial sites.
Work is under way to remove or lower more dams along the River Raisin in Monroe to improve game fish spawning and migration from Lake Erie.
A new building addition has popped up at the area’s sewage treatment plant to reduce the chances of pollution from overflows during rainy weather.
And an abandoned riverfront paper mill building laden with hazards soon will be demolished and the land restored to natural riverbank.
They are a few of the City of Monroe’s environmental projects that led Michigan’s environmental chief to embark on a day-long tour of the community Friday.
Dan Wyant, director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, met with community leaders and then went on a bus tour of area environmental projects, many of which used brownfield grants and loans to turn old or contaminated industrial buildings and land into new industrial sites, houses and even a national park.
Mr. Wyant said his visit to Monroe was part of a goal to visit 60 communities within the next year to familiarize himself with the challenges and successes they have experienced and how the DEQ might assist them better.
“The highlight today is brownfield development, and we got a nice list today of how we could make the program better. That was the big take-away for me,” he said.
“We’ve undersold and underperformed on brownfield redevelopment recently,” he said. “What I heard here today is that jobs are fundamental and bringing back the tax base is key. We have a role in protecting the public health and the environment, but we also want to balance that with a focus on brownfield development.”
Earlier, Mr. Wyant told community leaders and regulatory partners attending a tour kickoff at the Port of Monroe office that Monroe’s track record in reclaiming brownfields “could be the model for other communities.”
While reflecting on the area’s successes, Port Commission Chairman Thomas Krzyston said he felt the next big redevelopment challenge in the area will be the former Ford Motor Co. plant in Monroe, once the area’s biggest employer.
The aged and sprawling industrial plant, part of which still is used for parts warehousing, is on a 500-acre site where industrial poisons were entombed during a previous environmental clean-up.
He said demolition of the obsolete plant might cost from $8 million to $16 million, but would provide potential sites for several new smaller manufacturing facilities, especially because the site already is served by water, electricity, sewer, rail, roads and natural gas.
Mike Gifford, regional brownfield coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency, said reclaiming old industrial sites is a good investment.
“For every dollar we invest in a project, it leverages another $17 in public and private investment,” he said.
Among the sites Mr. Wyant toured by bus Friday were DTE Energy’s Monroe Power Plant; the Gerdau steel plant; Ventower, the wind-tower manufacturer; former Consolidated Paper Co. property; water and wastewater treatment plants; the River Raisin dam projects; River Raisin National Battlefield Park; Mason Run housing community; Townes on Front Street condominiums; River Bend Commons, and the La-Z-Boy Incorporated headquarters construction site.