After six years, the mess left behind by General Motors is still an issue in Lansing Township

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by Liv Larsen
Lansing Township News

LANSING TOWNSHIP –– Since 2011, the Lansing Township Board of Trustees has been working with RACER Trust in the cleanup and redevelopment of the old General Motor plants when they closed in 2008. RACER trust was created after the General Motors bankruptcy and started this project with $4.2 million. On Wednesday October 7, the board members discussed their frustration over the length of this project.

Susan Aten and Kathleen Rodgers listen intently at the Board of Trustees meeting on October 7, 2014

Susan Aten and Kathleen Rodgers listen intently at the Board of Trustees meeting on October 7, 2014

“It’s been taking a long time,” said Lansing Township Supervisor Kathleen Rodgers. “And it will be a long time before these properties will be sold and marketed.”

Part of the reason this project has been taking so long is because when the GM plants moved out, they left a lot of contamination in their wake.

“There has to be a plan to cap or get rid of the contamination of that site. That has to be approved by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality,” Rodgers said. There have been “numerous extensions because of the contamination.”

Because the old plant area is known for the left behind contaminants, Rodgers worries that this could affect how people see neighboring properties of the site.

“People are reluctant to buy property next to a contaminated site,” Rodgers said. “[There’s] some PCB (polycholrinated biphenyl) and dioxins.” But she assures that the contamination has “not reached the water table, [and] has not encroached on the groundwater.”

Despite the types of contaminates known to be on the site, RACER Trust officials feel confident they have a handle on the situation. Michigan Cleanup Manger for RACER Trust Grant Trigger said in an emailed statement that the company wouldn’t characterize the work as a struggle and feels that its team will be able to safely complete to work.

From the beginning, township officials have kept the well being of the township at the forefront of their minds and planning.

“We met with GM and asked them what was gonna happen,” said Lansing Township Planning Director Steve Hayward. They told him that they wanted the “highest and best use for this property.” Hayward asked them if “that [meant] to our residents or [their] stockholders…they said stockholders.”

That conversation with GM leaders has inspired the city officials to try and turn this property into something that can benefit the people of Lansing Township.

“At this point we’re trying to take a more affirmative stance on how this property is going to be used so it’s not detrimental,” said Hayward. “We need to have these properties not be a drag on the township.”

Some Lansing Township residents are equally concerned with how the ongoing emptiness of the lots are starting to affect the rest of the area.

“They need to be cleaning up this property,” said Lansing Township resident Vicki Simmons.“We need to get this stuff taken care of [and] bring this town back to life.”

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