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EPA remediation, testing continues at southeast site

Base: Google Maps / Map information: EPA / Graphic: Hilary Farrell

Several residences have received some form of environmental remediation as testing and cleanup continues at the site of a former dry cleaner in southeast Grand Rapids. 

Elizabeth Nightingale of the Environmental Protection Agency says 51 property assessments have been performed as of mid-July related to vapor intrusion issues at the chemically-contaminated site on the corner of Hall Street and Madison Avenue SE.

She says that includes a recent expansion further west and south following new groundwater information.

The agency is also working on proposing more permanent environmental fixes.

“Work out there [moving forward] is going to become a little bit more sporadic," she says. "We’ll continue to work through the process with those new homes that we’re adding to the data collection process, (and) we’ll continue to work on evaluating how to clean up the source area - and how to get that system designed."

Nightingale says the site expansion covers an overall 106 properties – of that 106, she says about 20 of those are vacant and several others are not able to be tested for various reasons.

Nightingale says preliminary testing at the 51 properties identified nine with elevated levels of tetrachloroethylene or PCE – a suspected carcinogen linked to various negative health effects.

Six of the nine received some form of remediation measures following subsequent testing, Nightingale says; three of the six tested above PCE action levels in indoor air. 

"In two of those (three), we’ve already installed depressurization systems," she says. "In the third one we’re working with the owner."

Nightingale says most of those properties are in what the EPA identifies as a 'hot spot' in an area of Hall between Lafayette and Prospect avenues - about two blocks from the initial site.

"There’s one block that separates that hot-spot area from the source area," she says. "And in that one block, there are a lot of vacant properties and there are some properties that are built on vapor barriers, or have vapor barriers installed.

"So it's a little bit of a data gap actually - the area between the hot spot and the source area. Based on the information we have so far, it's a little bit hard to tell, but it seems like it is associated with the same plume."

Nightingale adds work at a connected structure on the corner of Hall and Madison that spurred the EPA’s response is wrapping up. 

The building was evacuated in May - displacing two non-profits and six residential tenants - after testing found higher-than-allowed levels of PCE and trichloroethylene (TCE).

Area residents or property owners who haven’t done free EPA sampling, or want more information, are encouraged to contact the agency.

You can get in touch by stopping by the EPA's temporary site office at 1267 Madison Avenue SE, or by calling Nightingale at 734-692-7665.

The EPA also has a webpage dedicated to the southeast and downtown vapor intrusion sites.

Hilary is a General Assignment and Enterprise reporter for WGVU Public Media. She joined WGVU in September 2014 after several years of experience as a local news reporter, anchor and photojournalist in Midland, Saginaw and Bay counties. She's also worked as a financial and business reporter and audio field producer.
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