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  1. #1
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    Default WTH? Riverside Park to be closed off again?

    Apparently there has been a discovery of soil contamination at Riverside park that has led to it being closed immediately and possibly for several months or longer.

    "The City of Detroit Recreation Department is temporarily closing the city's 20-acre Riverside Park near the Ambassador Bridge because of contaminated soil and ground water.

    Alicia Minter, the city's director of recreation, told a community meeting Monday evening that the park would be closed immediately to visitors until the city could determine the extent of the problem and develop a plan to clean it up."

    http://www.freep.com/article/20120321/NEWS01/120321050/1001/rss01

  2. #2
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    Isn't this the same parcel of property that was gifted to the city by MichCon back in the 70s or 80s? I can't remember all the details from back then, but IIRC after the "gift" the property was discovered to be contaminated. MichCon had egg on their face because it appeared they were trying to unload it on the city for cleanup. I think eventually, MichCon did clean it up at their expense. Assuming it was clean back then, and only used for recreational purposes since, how does it get "dirty" again? I can think of one way...

  3. #3
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    the contamination at the site probably goes back a long ways. here's a 1876 map showing the gassification plant right in the path of the yet to be built ambassador bridge. What is now riverside park starts at 24th street (lower left corner) and jefferson (then Woodbridge St)

    http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/micounty...image&size=400

    The map would indicate that what is now riverside park was once the river and was probably filled in to make room for the gasworks when the bridge went up (late 1920s) if not sooner.

    It wouldn't be unreasonable to suspect that the fill used for the base of the park was drawn largely from the excavation of the old gas works as they dug the footing for the giant support pier of the bridge.

  4. #4
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    Don't underestimate Matty.

  5. #5
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    I missed the meeting last night, but I wonder who ordered the soil testing, why did they order the testing, when did they order the testing.

    It seems unusual to me that a City that has no resources, that can't keep streetlights working, has to close Police stations, and is essentially on the brink of collapse ... seems unusual that they would just be sitting around and decide to start drilling.

    There are a whole lot of Who, What, When and Whys that were untouched in that article. Now maybe those questions where addressed in the meeting, but considering the controversy with the DIBC, it seems hinky.

  6. #6
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    Got it, jon. I'm ignorant on what it takes to clean a contaminated site. Were the standards different 3 decades ago? Could that be a reason why the contamination leeches back? Or, once these sites are cleaned, are they supposed to stay that way indefinitely? Great map, btw. Look at the city limits!
    Last edited by downtownguy; March-22-12 at 09:52 AM.

  7. #7
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    Marty MarOON did it. Let him clean up the poluted mess he make in the Southwest Downriverfront area.

  8. #8
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    I vaguely remember as a child visiting Riverside Park in the 1960s, when my mother's cousin and her family came for a 1 day excursion on the old Auquarama Ship from Cleveland (and parked at Riverside Park), and remembering not only how big the boat was, but also how cool the bridge looked from close up in a park. So at least part of Riverside Park has been there as a park for quite a while...
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  9. #9
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    environmental liability is pretty complicated. every previous owner of a contaminated parcel can be held liable for injury and cleanup costs. the result is that contaminated land is virtually useless to wealthy developers.

    the way around it is to get a letter form the epa saying that the contamination is remediated. it's a matter of public record so if one was issued for riverside park, it should be around still. the letters are granted for a specific purpose. the level of remediation required for a parking deck may differ significantly than what is required for a dirt bike course.

    often times, the treatment is pretty minor, strip the top few feet, put down a liner that exists mainly to warn off future diggers and cover with clean soil. other times, extensive pump and treat systems are required or even very deep excavations (like the uniroyal cleanup)

  10. #10
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    First off the city is hoping to have the site reopened by July. This is what I sent to the local community list serves about the meeting.

    I wanted to give you my synopsis of the meeting the community had with the city yesterday. As someone who is very involved with the park I am saddened by its temporary closure but want to make sure that the site is re-mediated and reopened as soon as possible. The city did say that there will be future meetings and that they will be partnering with SDBA and SDEV on this effort. Please see my comments below.
    I want to give a little historical info on the site and give an update from the meeting. I talked to Sam Buchanan from J.W. Wescott and this is what he was able to tell me. From the early 1900s till about the 1950s the Riverside Park site was used as a Coal Gasification site by Michigan Consolidated Gas(Michcon/DTE). Here is a link on the environmental effects of Coal Gasification from Chris Detjen.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal_gasification#Environmental_effectsThe area then donated to the City of Detroit in the 1960s prior to Environmental Regulations. (The Area that was mainly used for coalgasification) was the area where the boat launch currently is). Back in the mid 1980s Michcon skimmed 3 inches of Dirt off the Boat launch area and put a cap on the site of former use, (however this must not have been sufficient.) Now to the Meeting...The city says that in November or December of last year just as the ruling came down on riverside park, the DIBC made accusations that the site is contaminated, and they discovered this contamination when they put up there illegal fence on the park. The city could not ignore those accusations and took measures to make sure the park was safe, however the citys environmental affairs department took 3 to 4 samples in different areas of all 3 segments of the park. From what the preliminary findings show the soil has been leached and that the party responsible will be held accountable and will pay for the remediation(presumably DTE). The site needs a full environmental survey now which the city has already applied to the EPA for in the amount of 550k. They will be closing the park temporarily till the full risks are assessed. Most of the leached soil is still 8 feet down, and poses a small risk. I am saddened by the temporary closure of the park but do not feel that this is a ploy to sell of the park. I just hope that the clean up is done in an expeditious and thorough manner and that we all stay focused on improving the park and not let this issue divide city and community on the bridge issue. I for one do not feel the city would have put the $ into riverside boat launch if they thought this was an issue previously or they were planning on selling it off to Moroun.Again, We need to monitor the situation closely and push for the site to be cleaned up in an expeditious/comprehensive manner and the site to be reopened ASAP! This is one of our best public assets in the city and my hope is that the site will get the attention it deserves. The city has assured us that those who were recreating there will be able to be accommodated at other existing sites until then.That's my 2 cents on it. Joe Rashid
    Friends of Riverside Park
    BridgeWatch Detroit
    Detroit Parks Coalition

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by downtownguy View Post
    Got it, jon. I'm ignorant on what it takes to clean a contaminated site. Were the standards different 3 decades ago? Could that be a reason why the contamination leeches back? Or, once these sites are cleaned, are they supposed to stay that way indefinitely? Great map, btw. Look at the city limits!
    Sometimes from ground water contamination. It can be cleaned up permanently....with a cost

  12. #12
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    Quite a spread between the 3 inch skimming Joe describes happening in the 80s and the "top few feet" Jon says is typical. Did the standards change that much in 30 years I wonder, or did MichCon get a pass?

    At least we can take comfort that Maroun was actually looking out for our health and safety when he brought up the issue of contamination. Maybe he's not such a bad guy after all...

  13. #13
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    http://www.shorpy.com/node/9405?size=_original

    What appears to be the construction of a gasometer near the corner of West Grand Blvd and 24th street

    And here is a pic from 1908 of the Uniroyal site before it was Uniroyal. Notice the gasometer in the background.
    http://www.shorpy.com/node/12179?size=_original

  14. #14
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    My initial feeling is that this has got to be trumped up. I'm sure there's contamination all over Detroit's parks, and the DIBC is just ensuring the park remains closed to the public -- under another rationale.

  15. #15
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    Thanks for the extensive update urbanoutdoors!

    Quote Originally Posted by urbanoutdoors View Post
    The city says that in November or December of last year just as the ruling came down on riverside park, the DIBC made accusations that the site is contaminated, and they discovered this contamination when they put up there illegal fence on the park.
    I figured the gnarly old hand of Matty had to be involved in this.


    Quote Originally Posted by urbanoutdoors View Post
    I am saddened by the temporary closure of the park but do not feel that this is a ploy to sell of the park. I just hope that the clean up is done in an expeditious and thorough manner and that we all stay focused on improving the park and not let this issue divide city and community on the bridge issue. I for one do not feel the city would have put the $ into riverside boat launch if they thought this was an issue previously or they were planning on selling it off to Moroun.
    I really hope you're right, but I definitely have grave doubts. I'm still thinking that DIBC is looking for some way to leverage this cleanup to get their way. I certainly don't think that the fact the city built the boat launch means that they won't pull the rug out from under us. They have wasted $$ before on new things that they then tore up, sold, or abandoned.

  16. #16
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    There were still gas towers at the bridge into the 60's.

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  17. #17
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    Also, your history of the area is essentially correct. The western part of Riverside Park was a ballfield going back into the 1930s and was built on fill land. The excursion boat dock that Gistok remembers was built sometime in the '50s and shows in DTE aerial photos from that time. What's now the eastern portion of the park was mostly taken up by a large gas works from the mid-1800s to about 1960. I had an great-uncle who worked there for many years.

    The gas works ran from Fort St. to the river (bisected by W. Jefferson), and roughly from 24th St. over to the bridge. The bridge was actually built over part of the gas plant, and the railroad roundhouse next door to the east. The portion of the gas works south of Jefferson was where the coal was delivered by boat & train and stored and handled. Maps from the 1920s show coal storage and a large retort furnace there for the burning of coal.

    With the rising availability of natural gas, and the breaking up of the coal/gas monopolies, coal gasification slipped out of use and the coal portion of the gas works was shut down. Most of the gas co. buildings south of Jefferson appear to be gone by the late '40s. But the area was still owned by Michigan Consolidated Gas and did not become park land until the entire gas works was closed and demolished in the early '60s.

    Hard as it may be for some people to believe today, no thought whatsoever was given to things like ground contamination back then. The city was just happy to have the land for a park. As Detroitnerd says above, any number of Detroit parks were built on former industrial sites, as were entire neighborhoods. Hell, when I was a kid in the '60s many Detroit Public School playgrounds, including the one at my elementary school, were surfaced with slag left over from steel production, which was given to the Board of Ed at little or no cost.

  18. #18
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    Thanks all for the info. Thanks Eastsideal... I kind of thought that we were west of the bridge where the boat docked. As a young kid that boat looked huge like an ocean liner... and the water must be pretty deep at that dockside site. The enormity of both the boat and bridge were among my earliest recollections of Detroit (2 other very early memories were remembering that I-94 ended at Vernier/8 Mile with the dirt removed trench ending just past the exit... and also visiting the Ford Rotunda at Christmas).

  19. #19
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    i used to like to sit in my car and watch the boats go thru there, the cars go over the bridge. Listen to the Windsor University radio programs. Drink beer and draw

  20. #20
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    Clip from 1961 DTE aerial photo of the Riverside Park area, showing ship dock (with docked ship), a smaller boat (mail boat?) docked at J.W. Wescott, 2 enlarged parking areas, a couple of remaining gas tanks, a mostly empty area where the gas works used to be - including rough new parkland south of the railroad tracks, and the remnants of the recently demolished train roundhouse in the upper right corner.

    Name:  riverside park 1961.jpg
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  21. #21
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    You can get contamination from a source up to a mile away , if a service station has a tank leaking the contamination will flow with the ground water effecting everything along the way , being it is close to the river downstream it may be hard to find the source .

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard View Post
    You can get contamination from a source up to a mile away , if a service station has a tank leaking the contamination will flow with the ground water effecting everything along the way,
    being it is close to the river downstream it may be hard to find the source .
    If they do not do the perimeter wells it may be history repeating itself.

    And where is the edit post thing on mobile?

  23. #23
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    Just look at the Lange/Revere Canal in St. Clair Shores near 10 Mile/Jefferson.

    http://www.macombdaily.com/articles/...6690835528.txt

    The EPA has been working on that for 12 years now and said it may take until 2014 to find the source of the contamination. They said that since most of the area has heavy concentrations of clay in the soil that it's not a hazard for the surrounding areas except where the water flows into the storm drain and into the canal.

    Based on how ineffective the EPA has been in SCS... I wouldn't doubt that Matty et al could use such a scenario to their advantage in keeping the park closed for quite some time.
    Last edited by Gistok; March-22-12 at 10:57 PM.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gistok View Post
    Just look at the Lange/Revere Canal in St. Clair Shores near 10 Mile/Jefferson

    http://www.macombdaily.com/articles/...6690835528.txt

    The EPA has been working on that for 12 years now and said it may take until 2014 to find the source of the contamination. They said that since most of the area has heavy concentrations of clay in the soil that it's not a hazard for the surrounding areas except where the water flows into the storm drain and into the canal.

    Based on how ineffective the EPA has been in SCS... I wouldn't doubt that Matty et al could use such a scenario to their advantage in keeping the park closed for quite some time.
    Considering EPA figures you can contaminate an entire neighborhood by sanding a lead paint based window , they are very easy to manipulate in those regards and its back to politics.

  25. #25
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    Iam at a loss as to the closing of the park due to contamination, Back in the late 80's the park was closed due to contamination and completely rebuilt including the boat launching area. I can not figure how it got so contaminated again?

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