As the owners of a former industrial site along the Saline River struggled to clean up PCBs they learned of another contamination issue: PFAS.
Mike Stoelton, director of Environmental Affairs for Adient, which now owns the Universal Hoover site at 232 S. Monroe St., provided an update on remediation efforts to Saline City Council last Monday.
Stoelton told council Adient tried a soil vapor extraction method to remove volatile organic compounds from the ground, but it didn’t work.
“It didn’t go as planned. And, quite honestly, I’m upset about that. But that’s the way remediation is sometimes,” Stoelton told council. “So, we are regrouping and attempting another (effort). I am sure this one will be successful.”
That effort should begin in the next 12 months and will also involve testing sediments in the Saline River.
At the same time, as information emerged about the dangers of PFAS, the state discovered the contaminant on site. PFAS is found in hundreds of applications and products. At this site, chrome plating was responsible for the contamination.
“We didn’t know PFAS existed two years ago,” Stoelton said. “We do have PFAS on the site. We are undertaking activity to determine where it’s at, how much is there, and to remediate it.”
Stoelton said shallow groundwater on the site contains PFAS. He said there are no impacts to residential drinking water wells near the site. He also said PFAS is not in the soil.
Answering a question from Mayor Brian Marl, Stoelton could not say how long it would take to remediate the PFAS contamination.
“PFAS is very new. It’s very honestly quite difficult to control,” Stoelton said. “Most other chemicals, we can do something to break the chemical down where it sits. PFAS the chemical bond we’re talking about is a fluorine bond, which are extremely strong. What the answer is, we don’t know yet. So I hesitate to give you a time frame. It’s going to be longer term.”
Marl said the city is committed to working with Adient or any interested party to successfully remediate the site and to do so as expeditiously as possible,” Marl said.
Stoelton said the faster it’s done, the less expensive the process will be.
PFAS compounds accumulate in living organisms.
People are exposed to PFAS by drinking contaminated sources of water, eating contaminated fish, accidentally swallowing PFAS from products like non-sticking cook ware, eating food packaged in material with PFAS, other otherwise ingesting the contaminant.
The site at 232 S. Monroe St., originally a dairy farm, was an industrial site for more than 100 years. It was owned by the Hoover Universal company, housing the Universal Diecast division.
Johnson Controls purchased the site 1985. Adient was founded as a spin-off from Johnson Controls in 2016.
Stoelton said pollution on the site are the result of the former owners’ activities. After a failed residential development on the site the responsibility for the site went back to Johnson Controls.
In 2012, Johnson Controls took over the site again.
“It was a mess. It looked like a moon scape. If you drove by from Monroe Street, it really looked like the moon,” Stoelton said.
In 2015, the company removed 35 million pounds of contaminated debris and rubble.
Adient assumed liabilities and responsibilities for the Johnson Controls site in 2016.
Stoelton also said Adient could consider building a sidewalk in front of the site as early as September – although there are a few issues, including potential moving of a fire hydrant.