November 24, 2014

EPA grant sought for old gas station cleanup on tribal land

Kevin Bunch
The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe is interested in demolishing a former gas station along US-23 near I-75 and cleaning up fuel contamination on the property for future redevelopment and groundwater protection.
Posted

STANDISH — The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe is hoping to clean up the 23 acres of the old Marathon gas station property on US-23 south of the I-75 interchange, and is seeking an Environmental Protection Agency grant to help.

The tribe is interested in demolishing the old gas station, conducting a study to see how contaminated the land is for future brownfield redevelopment, and cleaning up the property, according to Frank Cloutier, public relations manager with the tribe.

“We have had no decision or even discussions on what to use the property for in the future,” Cloutier said. “This is just to clean it up, as it has a negative impact on the Heritage Route and the Sunrise Side (campaigns) because it’s an eyesore. And it’s dangerous; someone already has been inside and set the building on fire.”

To clean up the property, the tribe needs to first hold a study to determine the size and scope of the project, Cloutier said. It would test for what contaminants are in the area, and in what amounts. Cloutier said asbestos is inside the gas station building itself, while gasoline could have leaked from the underground tanks.

According to Craig Graveratte, environmental response program specialist working with the tribe, the tribe is seeking up to $200,000 from the EPA’s grant program. The program does require a 20-percent match from the tribe itself, which would be at least $40,000, Graveratte said.

“We’re expecting it to be at least $240,000 for the total cost of the cleanup,” he said.

Graveratte said that portion of US-23 was once known as gasoline alley due to all the truck stops and gas stations along the corridor. The property in question was a gas station for roughly 30 years starting around 1965, and had five underground 8,000-gallon storage tanks — two diesel and three gasoline — which may have contaminated the land with petroleum fuel, he said.

“The tribe’s interest is in protecting the groundwater from contamination, and restoring the property for economic reuse so more development could occur in the area,” Graveratte said.

The tribe has also sent out requests for letters of support from local governments, including Standish, Lincoln Township, Standish Township, and the county. Cloutier said the tribe wants to show that cleaning up the property would have a positive impact on the greater area, not just the tribal land.

“Some people have sent letters denouncing the effort,” Cloutier said. “We want to display to the grant consideration people that there are two sides to everything.”

Graveratte said the letters of support are part of the EPA requirements for the grant. He said the tribe had to hold a public hearing about the project, and provide people an opportunity to mail in their questions, concerns, and thoughts. He said all of those letters must be sent along with the grant application, along with comments and responses by the tribe.

The deadline for the grant is Dec. 3, Graveratte said. It was originally Nov. 19, but was pushed back due to Hurricane Sandy. He said the tribe should hear back from the EPA between May and July.

Cloutier said the tribe is appreciative of all the help it can get to receive a federal grant for the study and the cleanup, but even if it does not secure one, he said it will move ahead with cleaning up the property anyway.

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