Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 15, 2013

GT Road Comm. reviews brine deal

BY MICHAEL WALTON mwalton@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — The Grand Traverse County Road Commission is on the verge of terminating a contract with a Kalkaska company that’s under fire for spraying toxic solvents on Benzie County roads.

Team Services LLC violated environmental protection laws in June when it sprayed unpaved roads in Benzie County with oil field brine — a substance used to reduce dust — that contained Benzene, Toluene and other toxins at levels that exceeded state limits, according to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Team Services provided the same dust-control service to Grand Traverse County in late May and early June, but DEQ officials believe only two Benzie County roads were sprayed with what DEQ documents referred to as “liquid industrial waste.”

Still, Grand Traverse County Road Commission Manager Jim Cook doesn’t want to take any chances.

“Until Team (Services) gets everything squared away on their end, we’re not going to use them in the county,” Cook said. “Even if there isn’t a problem, there’s that perception. We don’t want to risk it.”

Cook said he’ll make a recommendation to the road commission board to end an agreement with Team Services during a special meeting today. Team Services was scheduled to apply brine to unpaved county roads next month for the second time this summer.

Team Services sprayed roughly 444,000 gallons of brine across about 176 miles of county roads early this summer. Nearly every gravel road in the county that is not seasonal was sprayed with brine.

Janice Heuer, a DEQ environmental engineer, said records from Team Services and Benzie County suggest only two Benzie County roads -- Fewins and Douglas roads -- were sprayed with brine that contained high concentrations of toxins. About 2,500 gallons were sprayed on a one-mile stretch of Fewins Road and about 725 gallons across .29 miles of Douglas Road.

”We don’t have any evidence that (it) got sprayed anywhere else,” Heuer said.

Heuer said DEQ and Team Services officials recently met to discuss what went wrong in Benzie County. Exactly how the elevated levels of toxins ended up in a Team Services brine truck remains unclear.

“They were not able to come up with what happened at that point in time, which I would say is troubling,” Heuer said.

Team Services must submit a written explanation about what occurred in Benzie County and what the company will do in the future to prevent such problems to the DEQ by Aug. 31.

Team Services officials have not responded to calls for comment.

The Grand Traverse road commission paid Team Services about $44,000 this year, but local townships cover roughly 75 percent of brine application costs.

Road commission and township officials could hire a different firm to lay down a second brine coating to county roads this summer, or they might forego a second coating altogether.

Blair Township officials hope to apply a second brine coating to unpaved roads, but only if the brine is tested before it is sprayed, township Supervisor Pat Pahl said.

“We wouldn’t want to take the chance of our citizens being exposed to anything like what happened in Benzie County,” Pahl said.

The road commission regularly tests contractors’ brine for concentrations of calcium chloride, the agent that keeps dust levels down, but not for toxins like Benzene and Toluene.

The road commission will meet at 5 p.m. at 1881 Lafranier Road.