Public hearing Monday to discuss lead contamination cleanup in Belding

Posted by Cory Smith • Last Updated 10:51 pm on Friday, October 07 2011

BELDING — Bob Seeley watched with a sense of relief on Thursday as workers removed soil from his mother’s backyard as part of a lead contamination  cleanup in Belding.
“We haven’t been able to grow grass back there for more than 20 years,” Seeley said. “We hope it’s all going to be OK when they are done.”
Crews are removing contaminated soil near downtown Belding. Mueller Brass, whose brass rod manufacturing plant nearby caused the contamination, is paying for the project.
Company spokesmen declined to discuss how much the project will cost.
For Seeley’s mother, Bonita Mosier, it means allowing her great-granddaughter to play in the backyard without any worries.
“They’re taking away the contaminated soil and replacing it,” Mosier said. “As long as it’s OK when they’re finished, I’ll be happy and so will my great-granddaughter.”
Mosier’s yard is one of 16 properties near Mueller Brass that is being decontaminated.
Mueller Brass has contracted Advanced Geo Services to handle the cleanup efforts.
Crews are rototilling the contaminated soil to loosen it. They then suck off three inches of topsoil with a large vacuum truck. More soil is removed if lead levels are still above the allowable limit.
The contaminated soil will be replaced with three inches of fresh topsoil and new sod. Work is expected to last about two or three weeks.
The contamination issue has been simmering in Belding for nearly two years after the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) discovered elevated lead levels in the air around Mueller Brass in 2009. Subsequent testing revealed elevated lead levels in the soil.
DEQ and other government officials are hosting a third public meeting about the contamination and clean up at 6 p.m. Monday in the Belding Area Schools Administration Building, 1975 Orchard St.
A public hearing on a new air quality permit will immediately follow the 6 p.m. meeting. Everyone is invited to both meetings.
Chris Christensen of the DEQ Remediation Division said the first meeting will discuss what has taken place with the clean up since last spring.
“We’ve tested the soil three different times using two different methods,” he said. “We have a pretty good handle on where the contamination is. They are out there in the neighborhood right now taking care of it.”
Residents with any concerns or questions are encouraged to the attend the meeting. The first hour will be dedicated to an open forum in which questions can be asked of a panel consisting of DEQ members.
The public hearing will involve a proposed permit for Mueller Brass to install new exhaust stacks connected to chip dryers at the facility, located at 302 Ashfield St.
Mueller’s smokestacks will have to be raised to triple their current height to meet federal standards, said Jeff Rathbun of the DEQ Air Quality Division. The current smokestacks are about 40 feet tall while the new smokestacks will be 122 feet tall.
“More than likely, if the permit is approved, a new stack will have to be constructed from the ground up,” Rathbun said. “This would allow the exhaust to disperse much higher in the air, reducing the lead emissions.”

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