Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Buick City Clean Up

Money is on the way to clean up the Buick City site. David Shepardson of The Detroit News reports:
An $836 million plan to prepare 90 former General Motors Corp. sites for new economic life will boost nearly four dozen Michigan properties, including the polluted vestiges of Buick City, Pontiac Assembly and Willow Run.

The program, announced by the White House on Tuesday, includes $161 million for the restoration of 47 sites in 14 Michigan communities. Many are along the I-75 corridor -- the backbone of Michigan manufacturing -- in communities such as Detroit, Flint, Saginaw and Bay City.

The idea behind the massive cleanup effort in 14 states is to "revitalize and redevelop old, shuttered GM facilities, preparing them for new industries, new jobs, and new opportunity," President Barack Obama said.

The Detroit News learned that Buick City in Flint, shuttered in 1999, will be the first project funded through the program because the cleanup plan for that site has already been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. The official announcement is expected today.

That's good news for economically ravaged Flint.

"The city of Flint was built around the central General Motors sites, but they've been in the deep freeze through GM's financial challenges," Flint Mayor Dayne Walling said in an interview.


  1. It will be interesting to see how they propose to clean the Buick site. All the sub-basements were left in place and filled with rubble during the demolition. It should be like opening King Tut's tomb.

  2. Oh man, Gerry, I think you hit the nail on the head with that. As most government estimates go, the cost will be MUCH higher. Maybe even twice as much. After all is said and done; after all of the lawsuits from workers getting injured; the unforeseen additional cost of more security during the process because it's really that bad. You can count on the cost going up.

    All and all, I think it's great news for Flint. Although it will cost tax payers twice as much. When, after all.. It's General Motors mess!

    Goood Greeef..

  3. Maybe someone can help me with my disconnect on this: these are former GM plants, so why isn't or didn't GM pay for their clean-up? How did they systemically sleaze their way out of cleaning up their own plants? Some of these are environmental clean-up sites, yes? So why hasn't the EPA forced GM to clean them up? GM is just so annoying and I wish all of Flint and Michigan would wake up to the fact that it is a giant, greedy suck-hole on our society and our infrastructure. They have taken way more than they have given. Way more. They routinely get state tax breaks (whether they actually provide all of the promised jobs is questionable), they divert the nation's agenda by forcing the Obama Administration to take over GM when it should've been allowed to just file for bankruptcy or fail, since we are still a free market economy. And then it emerges from a surgical bankruptcy only to use one pool of government money to "pay back" another pool. On top of that, GM falsely claimed to have paid back its loans, ignoring billions more in bailout money that top Obama officials generously say may be forgiven (when's the last time the bank forgave one of your loans?). GM gets break after break and STILL expects us to clean up its mess????? Are you kidding me?? This is a joke, right? Equally annoying ... When federal clean-up funds are announced, the local reaction has nothing to do with GM screwing taxpayers yet again; instead, it's more happy talk and delusions about the re-birth of Flint. This pathetic cycle of corporate sleaze, greed and leaching gets old. Flint's recovery will only occur once it weens itself from GM. Period.

  4. All good questions, anonymous. I haven't followed this as closely as I should, but it was my understanding that it was the bankruptcy settlement that allowed the new G.M. to get out of paying for all the environmental cleanup at their former plants. Not saying that's fair, but bankruptcy settlements always have winners and losers. In this case, at least Flint gets funding — albeit federal tax money — to clean up the site.

  5. And like Gerry and Rob, the projected costs seem ridiculously low to me.

  6. They're NOT cleaning the site up, folks! That's why the cost is so cheap. They're "cleanup plan" is to remediate a half-dozen or so really hot spots to a level safe for industrial use (they will remain heavily polluted) and then cover the entire site with a concrete cap (maintaining contamination and in perpetuity). This will be further enforced through a permanent deed restriction that will only allow industrial uses to happen on the site and never allow the cap to be penetrated.

    The only part of the site that is actually being cleaned up to an unrestricted level of contamination is a part of the CSX rail line.

  7. Thanks,Driftwood. Isn't capping the site the main component of the Chevy in the Hole "clean up"? Love to hear more on this. I'm assuming that a true clean up, which would involve trucking away tons of contaminated soil, would cost a fortune. Is that why they do it this way?

  8. Yes, I believe so. They're looking at some alternatives strategies as well due to the site's impact on flooding and river hydrology. But, cheap and easy is the name of the game in Flint, and we get what we pay for every time...

    The Jan. 2010 Fact Sheet includes costs as follows: "Alternative 2 – Excavation: Soil exceeding lead safety levels would be dug up and disposed of at an appropriate off-site facility. The estimated volume of soil needing excavation is 10,470 cubic yards. Cost - $2.9 million."

    Hardly a fortune, in the scheme of things, and that $2.9 million would have been worth every penny. They're not doing the extra effort because the city hasn't done anything to explore the site's actual potential as anything other than industrial, or bothered to do a master plan in the last 50 years. Now, regardless of what happens, the site is hog-tied into industrial uses and will prevent the sort of innovative, game-changing future the site could have as a hybrid landscape for mixed used, transit-oriented, light industrial, next-gen types of uses.

    It'll be interesting to see how this impacts future master planning, if and when it ever happens.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at