MADISON HEIGHTS, MI — The cleanup of a toxic site in the metro Detroit suburb of Madison Heights is ongoing, but state and federal agencies say it’ll cost more than originally predicted – around $4 million.

Last year, the remains of a hazardous industrial chemical hoard from the former Electro-Plating Services building oozed through a highway embankment.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) began a pilot study in July to cleanup the hazardous site.

When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) announced that the cleanup would start in August, the estimated costs to cleanup the groundwater were about $1.8 million.

The cleanup costs to date are around $2.2 million, said Tricia Edwards of the EPA during a remote town hall on Tuesday night. Edwards said she expects future costs for the treatment to be $2 million for the type of treatment they’ve chosen and continued operations like disposal and maintaining staff.

“There’s a lot of long-term benefits to doing this in-situ treatment, and one of the things that comes with doing in-situ treatment with these injections is we want to maintain and understand the performance of these reagents that have been injected,” she said.

The EPA looked at 9 options before choosing in-situ, or “in-place” treatment.

In-situ treatment means the EPA injects a chemical barrier into the groundwater. Then reactive, treatment materials then interact with the contaminants, removing or degrading them. The idea is to reduce the chemicals to the point where they are no longer toxic.

The treatment chemicals, called reagents, are expected to degrade a toxic mixture of hexavalent chromium, trichloroethylene, cyanide and per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS) that are polluting groundwater under the notorious industrial site.

The full scale injections of the reagents of the site are expected to start in September, and they will take longer than previously expected, Edwards said.

“We anticipated doing two rounds of injections, but now we’re going to slow things down and just do all of our injections over a longer period of time,” she said.

“EPA is going to maintain operations on site, because it does take some time for these treatment reagents to start working and getting some of those anaerobic things going within the soils and then that groundwater layer.”

Overall, the treatment is expected to take through the end of the year. Then the interceptor trench will be removed, the service drive will be restored, and the sump will be removed and restored.

“A lot of this is subject to change, and some of it is weather dependent,” Edwards said. But once this is finished, the EPA will leave the site and everything will be transferred to EGLE, Edwards said.

The treatment is not a final remedy and is only expected to last a few years. It replaces sump pumps that began drawing polluted groundwater from under the property after the toxic ooze began disrupting I-696 highway traffic in December.

Michigan regulators shut down Electro-Plating Services in 2016 after two decades of compliance issues. In 2017, the EPA removed large volumes of chemical waste from the rundown building. The waste was was being stored leaky barrels and pooling in an open basement pit.

In 2018, the site was considered for federal “Superfund” funding, but did not qualify, in large part because the contaminated water is not used for drinking. Tracy Kecskemeti of EGLE”s Materials Management Division said they did a reassessment, but again the site did not qualify.

“Frankly, now we have more data to demonstrate that the threat to human health and the environment either through the drinking water pathway or vapor intrusion pathways is not there,” she said.

The city has been approved to demolish the building once it has funding. The state legislature approved $600,000 this spring to help cover demolition costs. The demolition of the building is crucial to completing cleanup.

“The building itself is a source of contamination,” Kecskemeti said. “And the soil underneath that building is a source of contamination.”

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