GM's Toxic Assets

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

In the market for a parking lot in Flint, Michigan? Or a nine-hole golf course in New Jersey (needs TLC)? How about some scenic acreage way upstate New York that features prominently on New York State Registry of Hazardous Waste Sites and on the federal superfund list of contaminated places? All—and more—available now to the highest bidder. Come on down!

While the supposedly best of GM is sold to the supposedly new GM, the worst will be auctioned off in bankruptcy court. Call it the Adam and Eve of all foreclosure sales.

Open house in Massena, New York. This fine waterfront property, abutting the St. Regis Mohawk Indian Reservation in the east and the St. Lawrence River to the north, was home to a GM foundry. It made aluminum cylinder heads for the Chevrolet Corvair. It also mass-produced PCB sludge.

The proud buyer will become quite familiar with John Privitera, a lawyer for the Mohawk tribe at the McNamee Lochner Titus & Williams PC law firm in Albany, New York. On information and belief, John Privitera Esq. alleges that GM was “dumping hazardous waste on the banks of the river, such that the waste oozed into the water and the land. It was picked up by animals and moved up the food chain through fish and into Mohawk women — into their breast milk, into their babies.”

Cost of the site? $225 million—to clean up. That’s what GM would have to pay to detox the site and to restock the river with edible fish—if it held on to the property.

Tom Wilkinson, GM’s director of news relations, said to Bloomberg: “The old GM will be selling a lot of potentially valuable but peripheral property the company accumulated over 100 years, kind of like a big garage sale. You will see some really good real estate deals come out of this for investors and communities.”

And you’ll be paying for it. Government Motor’s environmental liabilities for all sites are estimated at $530 million. Fritz Henderson said money needed to wind down the old GM was $1.25 billion, up from an earlier estimate of $950 million, because of a reassessment of the environmental liabilities.

A bankruptcy court filing lists eleven GM sites that have contamination or “ongoing environmental compliance obligations” such as cleaning up soil, sediment, surface and groundwater and long-term monitoring, including property in Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo.

The company plans to leave behind sixteen plants and associated real estate in Delaware, Ohio, New York, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Michigan; an industrial park in Anderson, Indiana; a former Cadillac site in Detroit; the parking lots in Flint; offices and an employee development center in Pontiac, Michigan; and 76 acres of vacant land in Van Buren, Michigan, among other discarded property. If only the real estate market were better . . . .

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • Nick Nick on Jul 02, 2009
    Look at all the jobs GM created by polluting the environment! Exactly, talk about job creation. The companies that make hazmat suits will throw 'er in high gear, unused excavators and dump trucks can be used to move this stuff...somewhere. And loads of people doing the testing, digging, shipping and everything else required for environmental remediation. It will keep thousands employed for years to come. May as well.
  • Captain Tungsten Captain Tungsten on Jul 02, 2009

    GM has reclaimed many of it's old industrial sites, examples include the Centerpoint site in Pontiac, which was originally a truck assembly plant, the site of the Pontiac foundry on which a U.S. Postal Service processing facility stands, the powertrain plant in Flint which had to be remediated before the new I-6/I-5 plant could be built. There are other examples as well.

  • Roger hopkins The car is in Poland??? It does look good tho...
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X The push for EV's is part of the increase in our premiums. Any damage near the battery pack and the car is a total loss.
  • Geozinger Up until recently this was on my short list of cars to replace my old car. However, it didn't pass the "knee test" with my wife as her bad knee makes it difficult for her to get in and out of a sedan. I saw a number of videos about the car and it seems like the real deal as a sporting sedan. In addition I like the low price, too, but it was bad luck/timing that we didn't get to pull the trigger on this one.
  • ToolGuy I agree with everyone here. Of course there are exceptions to what I just said, don't take everything so literally. The important thing is that I weighed in with my opinion, which is helping to move things forward. I believe we can all agree that I make an important contribution (some will differ, that is their prerogative). A stitch in time saves nine. Life isn't fair, you know. I have more to say but will continue at our next meeting. You can count on that, for I am a man of my word. We will make it happen. There might be challenges. I mean, it is what it is. This too shall pass. All we can do is all we can do. These meetings are never really long enough for me to completely express all the greatness within me, are they? Let's meet to discuss. All in a day's work. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day. At the end of the day, I must say I agree with you. I think you will agree. When all is said and done, there is more said than done. But of course that is just one man's opinion. You are free to disagree. As I like to say...(I am working on my middle management skills -- how am I doing?)
  • Golden2husky Have to say he did an excellent job on the C7, especially considering the limited budget he was given. I am very happy with my purchase.