OTSEGO, MI — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to spend an estimated nearly $1 million to demolish a building contaminated with asbestos in Otsego, according to Paul Ruesch of the EPA.
The EPA announced funding approval to remove asbestos from the former Rock Tenn Paper Mill in Otsego, according to a Feb. 22 news release from Allegan County. Ruesch confirmed the EPA’s plans.
A crane with a claw mounted to it will be used to take the building apart while misting devices will be used to knock down the dust, Ruesch said. Contractors licensed to work with asbestos materials will remove the debris from the site and it will be disposed of in a special way, he said.
Perimeter air monitoring will be set up to ensure asbestos is not drifting from the site, he said.
“We would have gone in and removed it, but it’s too dangerous," Ruesch said, because the building is structurally unsafe. “It’s going to be cheaper to knock it down and take it all away as asbestos containing material as opposed to surgically removing the asbestos.”
A previous environmental assessment identified asbestos contamination at a building that was part of the former RockTenn paper mill at 431 Helen Avenue in Otsego, Allegan County Executive Director of Services Dan Wedge said.
Allegan County took ownership of the 48-acre property that includes the building where asbestos was found through a tax foreclosure, Wedge said.
The project announcement comes after a joint request from the Allegan County Treasurer’s Office and the City of Otsego submitted June 28. The funds have been made available under the EPA Time-Critical Removal Action, Allegan County said.
The funding will allow for the entire power house building to be demolished and removed by EPA contractors, the county said. The power house may be considered the most difficult building on the complex to remove due to its size, contents and inherit structural dangers, the county said.
The EPA’s schedule for the project is planned for April of 2019 and should take 60 days to complete, the county said.
Ruesch estimated it would be “less than half” of the cost to remove the same building if asbestos was not present.
The money comes from U.S. EPA funds for Superfund sites, and the EPA will attempt to recover the cost from responsible parties, he said.
“It’s a huge encouragement,” Wedge said about the project, which should make it more viable for developers to come to the city or county with a plan for the land.
The paper mill closed in 2004. Anthony M. Davis of Canton bought the former Rock-Tenn site in 2006 and the property entered foreclosure in April 2011 after Davis’ company, Cogswell Property LLF, failed to pay overdue property taxes.
Davis was sentenced to a year in prison in 2013 after he pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Clean Air Act by failing to obtain a thorough asbestos inspection for the mill’s powerhouse building before stripping out pipes that he knew were wrapped in insulation containing asbestos. He was sentenced to pay $168,029.59 in restitution to the the EPA.
The land is for sale now and will be available for purchase for a “minimal investment," Wedge said. The demolition is meant to help bring more redevelopment opportunities, he said.