Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Wednesday

November 20, 2013

More public cash for cleanup? Grand Traverse County pursues long-term fix for pollution in Warehouse District

TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County is pursuing another $600,000 in taxpayer funds to clean cyanide-tainted groundwater beneath Traverse City’s Warehouse District, officials said.

Documents obtained by the Record-Eagle this week show groundwater pumped from the Hotel Indigo construction site, off Grandview Parkway in the Warehouse District, tested positive for cyanide through September, October and the first week of November.

Elevated levels of cyanide found in groundwater at the site this summer prompted some to voice concerns about the health of Grand Traverse Bay.

The most recent test results indicate cyanide levels decreased slightly from the summer, prompting optimism that the cleanup of the Hotel Indigo site is working.

“The totals are coming down a little bit,” said Jean Derenzy, leader of the Grand Traverse County Brownfield Development Authority.

Derenzy said county officials applied for $600,000 from the Michigan Land Bank for long-term groundwater cleanup throughout the Warehouse District. The county expects to learn this week if it will receive the money.

“It’s basically for remediation,” Derenzy said. “I’m hoping we can combine our efforts to address the overall area.”

The endeavor carries with it significant ramifications for Traverse City and the larger Grand Traverse region. A successful cleanup could spark more development in the Warehouse District, once a sprawling industrial complex that draws occasional interest from developers because of its views of Grand Traverse Bay.

That view played a role in Hotel Indigo development plans. The project represents a potential $15 million-plus structure on .83-acre east of the intersection of Hall Street and Grandview Parkway.

Indigo developers ran into snags during the summer, when groundwater pumped from the site during foundation work tested positive for higher-than-expected cyanide levels. Cyanide measurements came in as high as 1,200 parts per billion on June 21.

The scientific analysis of the environmental impact of cyanide on bodies of water is complex, but some experts consider the amounts at the Indigo to be more than 100 times higher than acceptable levels of environmental cleanup standards for aquatic health set by the state of Michigan.

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