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Oct. 23, 2020

GM Legacy to Flint: A Toxic Brownfield and Polluted Flint River

GM Legacy to Flint: A Toxic Brownfield and Polluted Flint River
Is GM Buick City Site An Environmental Crime Scene?
This dribble of disturbing and frightening news raises one question in my mind: Where are the General Motors managers who allowed this to happen? Why isn't there a criminal investigation?
The Buick City site does not have just a little bit of toxic chemicals left behind; there appears to be massive environmental damage. Remember, this was first discovered in 2008. Like the water crisis, the real story about how this could happen and who are the executives and managers who permitted such disregard for human health to occur. This is not just a legal problem; it is a moral one. It also begs the nation to search its soul to make companies responsible who escape accountability by filing bankruptcy. The bankruptcy laws ought to be changed for corporations and their employees and managers seeking to escape responsibility for massive human health and environmental damage.
According to the Flint Journal, in an article dated October 29, 2018, previous PFAS readings on the property peaked at more than 600 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOS, one type of the "forever chemical" believed to have been used on-site in plating operations and by firefighters using it in foam. Michigan calls for cleanup if surface water contamination reaches 12 ppt."
Grant Trigger, who is the Michigan cleanup manager for RACER Trust, who is attempting to clean up the Buick City brownfield site, told the Flint Journal in an interview that recent locations at Buick City with PFOS are:
  • The old GM wastewater treatment plant on Stewart Avenue, at 4,800 ppt.
  • The former pickling and enameling site just south of Leith Street, at 4,600 ppt.
  • A former assembly/paint area near Hamilton with 4,800 ppt.
  • The building 44 paint shop on Hamilton, north of the new Lear facility: 15,000 ppt.
The Buick City site appears to be an environmental crime scene. Remember, there have already been millions and millions of EPA Super Fund dollars spent to clean the site up. While GM can claim bankruptcy and walk away from Flint without financial liabilities, the criminal laws do not afford the same protections as those who poisoned the City of Flint. The question of time limits on prosecution may not apply.
After all these years, it is a mystery to what degree employees at the GM Buick City site have been poisoned, not just this reckless handling of PFAS chemicals but of other toxins, the EPA has removed.
What is discovered is not just the occasional accident. There appears to be a systematic disregard for environmental and occupational safety and health laws. Many people who worked at this GM site claimed from the day it closed that there were chemicals they were ordered to dispose of underground.
What appears to have happened in Flint by GM's fancy legal maneuvers is leaving Racer Trust to investigate egregious national and state environmental laws violations. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is "monitoring" the situation where cancer-causing PFSAs are confirmed to be flowing in the Flint River. The State of Michigan's Department of Environment (EGLE) finally replaced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has "monitored" the site's cleanup in previous years. These agencies have been involved for years in this disaster.
The City Council of Flint can investigate this matter. It has subpoena powers. The Michigan legislature also has subpoena power to investigate who was involved in this matter. They need to provide America with answers about how to prevent such reckless corporate behavior in the future.
Flint auto workers, who GM smeared as the company leveled factory after factory, need their reputations back. The elected representatives of Flint and Michigan need to delve into finding the answers to this situation.
General Motors' incompetent management left Flint, Michigan, blaming the workers for unionization and complaining about the quality of their work. The fact is that GM had an environmental time bomb on its hands. GM saw an exit ramp in bankruptcy to avoid responsibility to the community that provided it home for nearly 100 years.
GMs Bankruptcy left Flint with a hopelessly polluted brownfield, and many people lost their pensions too.
Some debts in bankruptcy are avoided if you have a high-priced lobbyist spreading good cheer in Washington, DC. I think of the auto workers' children who have excessive student loans and cannot use bankruptcy laws to reform their finances. When you compare GM with the GM worker's children, you come to your conclusion about what is morally wrong with the laws in America.
However, the real question is whether or not the State of Michigan, which covered up the water crisis from its victims, will go the extra mile to determine whether there was cancer-causing PFAS in the Flint drinking water in 2014 and 2015. I am sure a few samples of that drinking water are sitting around at some scientific lab. When are they going to test that water to see if it was more than lead and as seems reasonable to suspect PFSA's as well? If things go as they have in the past, the answer is likely never!
The City of Flint does not appear to be the only victim of GM's reckless and careless disregard for the health and safety of the people of Flint. It has been confirmed that homes on Stanley Road in Genesee Township that have well water have shown extremely high levels of PFAS.
At the Buick City site, in 2018, according to the Flint Journal, PFAS have been found in the stormwater drainage system that feeds into the Flint River. It also was determined that there are two storm drains that dumped PFSAS directly into the Flint River.
In 2014 and 2015, Flint began its fateful use of Flint River water as its primary drinking water source. The question remains whether the PFAS migrated into the homes of Flint residents in addition to the lead remains unanswered. PFAS is a chemical known to cause cancer. The Flint municipal water processing plant is north of the Buick City site.
There is more to the pollution story at the Buick City brownfield site. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined Buick City contains soil and groundwater (underground water supplies) contaminated with various petroleum products, chemicals, and metals. Some of the groundwater under Buick City contains a free-floating petroleum product called LNAPL. This is unusually difficult to remove. Various contaminants have been identified at the Site:
  • 15 LNAPL areas, some with Polychlorinated biphenyls.Polychlorinated biphenylsare a group of toxic, persistent chemicals used in electrical transformers and capacitors for insulating purposes and gas pipeline systems as a lubricant. The sale and new use of PCBs were banned by law in 1979, although large reservoirs of PCBs remain in the environment. contamination;
  • Soils on-site contaminated with metals and Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds;
  • Groundwater contaminated with VOCs, SVOCs, and dissolved metals;
  • Surface water VOC impacts are also present from storm sewer outfalls.
  • PFAS impacts the groundwater, stormwater, and sanitary sewers.
While we have an election, the water crisis, COVID-19, and many social problems, the most viable site for future development for the area appears to be a poison toxic wasteland. Environmental justice is needed for what has been discovered. The health and welfare and the lives of residents of the City of Flint and GM workers who GM recklessly exposed to various cancer-causing chemicals matter too!
#flintwatercrisis #pfas