Land bank cleanup will resurrect industrial site


The Kent County Land Bank Authority and the city of Grand Rapids will embark on a $100,000 cleanup project Dec. 1.

The cleanup is at 1516 Blaine Ave. SE at the former Hard Chrome Plating Co. industrial site. Hard Chrome’s owner defaulted on taxes, and the land bank bought the property for $11,705 in 2014.

At the time, the contamination of the former industrial facility was not known, and in March, KCLBA executive director Dave Allen told the Business Journal the organization “will take a significant loss on the building.”

The facility is in a portion of the southeast Grand Rapids Oakdale neighborhood that is zoned industrial and light manufacturing.

The 6,000-square-foot building held 100 55-gallon drums and smaller containers of chemicals such as sulfuric acid, sodium hydroxide, hydrochloric acid and nickel. There were also five plating baths containing arsenic, chromium, lead and mercury acid still suspended from the ceiling.

The project will now get underway with cleanup performed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the next several months to open up new much-needed industrial space in Grand Rapids.

The EPA will use funds designated under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensations and Liability Act, or Superfund. In March, the Michigan DEQ and EPA authorized the transportation of the chemicals to Arizona for disposal in a deep underground facility.

The EPA also is conducting an investigation for responsible parties and will pursue a cost-recovery action. The former owner of the site passed away shortly following the foreclosure.

Allen told the Business Journal in March the company had been in compliance with the city and environmental regulations.

“The Kent County Land Bank is excited we can finally clean up this highly contaminated, highly dangerous eyesore and restore this property back to the market for manufacturing companies in the region that need industrial space to grow, compete and create jobs,” Allen said in a statement last week. “This is an important project that can help improve the neighborhood, attract new businesses and move the local economy forward.

“We’re getting calls nearly every day from businesses looking for buildings just like this, and thanks to our collaborative effort, we will rehabilitate this problem property safely and responsibly.”

The neighborhood is excited for the opportunity the cleanup will provide, Oakdale Neighbors executive director Tom Bulten said. The property is near an occupied house and across the street form an elementary school.

“We look forward to attracting new businesses that create jobs in our neighborhood,” Bulten said.

Along with performing the cleanup, the EPA will meet with neighboring properties and first responders to alert them to the hazards of the site. Security also will be on site during the times the EPA is off site and chemicals are still on the premises.

One reason the EPA is involved is because the property is on the Silver Creek watershed, which empties into Plaster Creek and, eventually, the Grand River. Plaster Creek is the most polluted creek in West Michigan, wrote Calvin College’s Plaster Creek Stewards director Gail Heffner in a statement.

The Plaster Creek Stewards conduct water research education and restoration projects.

“Any project that helps restore (Plaster Creek) back to health will have a positive effect, not just on our water resources — it will also improve the wellbeing and quality of life for families living across southeast Grand Rapids,” Heffner said. “This will protect our water resources and help strengthen local neighborhoods.”

The KCLBA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to rehabilitate blighted properties to once again contribute taxes to the community. Most land-bank acquisitions are single-family homes.

“We’re returning properties such as the site of the former Hard Chrome Plating Co. to the marketplace quickly, responsibly and with greater accountability,” Allen said. “By stabilizing neighborhoods and creating economic development opportunities, the Kent County Land Bank is excited to contribute to Grand Rapids’ and Kent County’s positive economic progress.”

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