By on September 28, 2009

Clean-up on aisle 9! (hybridcars.com)

We all want to leave a legacy to the world. Nelson Mandela tore down apartheid, Mohandas K Gandhi brought independence to India and William Wilberforce abolished slavery in the UK. When “New GM” was formed we were told that this company would be free from its legacies. Well, there’s one legacy it can’t shake.

Michigan Radio reports that GM’s plant in Flint, Michigan, has contaminated soil and ground water and environmental officials are currently investigating what the decommissioning clean up costs could be. “So this stretch of roadway is over a mile long of different factories, so the Buick City portion that we’re talking about is 200 acres,” said Keith Edwards of the Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce. 200 acres is approximately the size of 110 football pitches. Maybe Martha Stewart can help? The company that took over GM must pay for the clean-up; namely “New GM.” The taxpayer funded GM. It has already been estimated that the clean up for that one 200-acre parcel could cost between $1.4 to $3.7 million. The whole thing? Up to $19.9M. And you thought your tax dollars was going to regenerate a car company?

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28 Comments on “Buick City’s Big Cleanup...”


  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    I for one do not mind if my tax money is used to clean up this site.

    Besides, expenditures that end in m rather than B don’t even count as real money.

    Had old GM gone kaput, who’d be picking up the tab anyway?

  • avatar
    rnc

    It has already been estimated that the clean up for that one 200-acre parcel could cost between $1.4 to $3.7 million.

    Having worked in environmental accounting related to facility closure and remediation the cost isn’t really all that bad, especially considering the environmental regulations involved when the plant was in operation.

    And I would agree, cleaning up these sites is money well spent. (environmental cleanup is one of the main reasons that ford continues to upgrade rouge river facility rather than closing it – cost would be huge, they are currently in negotiation with the government over responsibility as large part of damage was done during WWII producing bombers)

  • avatar
    Highway27

    I’m in agreement with Dynamic: if all that New GM did was mitigate the environmental damage of Old GM, that would be one of the better outcomes they could have, rather than foisting more crummy cars on the public, or asking for more public handouts, or berating us with more ‘perception gap’ nonsense.

    And yeah, if GM had totally gone out of business, it would have been up to the government to clean up those sites anyway.

  • avatar
    andyinsdca

    I’m very surprised that this isn’t a Superfund site.

  • avatar
    brentalan

    If they had gone C7 the sale of their assets could go to clean up BEFORE creditors and stockholders claims no?

  • avatar
    obbop

    “the size of 110 football pitches”

    So, what is the quantity of pollutes soil and water?

    Stated in hogsheads per furlong, please.

  • avatar
    mikey

    OK.. Before we go GM bashing lets put it in the right perpective.

    Here in Ontario we don’t leave industrial buildings empty. Within 5 miles from where I sit,I could show you 6 abandoned sites. Two old factories, 3 former gas stations and an ancient tannery site. And wait for it….One huge former GM factory site,portions date back to the 1st world war.

    Nowhere, nohow, and nobody at GM as ever tried to run from thier responsibility. GM knocks the building down and cleans the site up. We have a brand new courthouse going up at an old GM site.A state of the art YMCA on former GM land.

    Down the road at the former GM van plant in Scarborough is a shopping center. Costco has an outlet in St Therese Quebec built on the old Camaro plant.

    @ Cammy.. Do you have any evidence of GM shirking thier responsibility in Michigan? I don’t live there,so maybe some of the Michigan people could throw some light on the subject.

    I can tell you that In Canada they have been very responsible corporate citizens.

  • avatar
    Cammy Corrigan

    Mikey,

    I’m not suggesting that New GM are shirking their responsibilities. I just can’t see why Old GM can’t be liquidated to fund this. Even the Chinese are apprehensive over Hummer….

  • avatar
    rnc

    I can tell you that In Canada they have been very responsible corporate citizens.

    By any chance is there a law that requires them to be?

  • avatar
    mikey

    @ Cammy Corrigan…The line up of folks looking for money from the old GM is fairly long,I would have to think.

    Closed factories are not an uncommon site these days. I’m just thinking that there is some more pressing matters for the new GM,and the old GM right now.

    rnc ….I think there is a law ,but I’m not 100% sure.

  • avatar
    Searay77

    I don’t know Mikey. They sure did make the SuperFund list in Mesa AZ! Rumors of the HUGE football field sized pits are well known. The vast amount of toxic waste was/is being very well kept. DMB is well aware of the extent.
    But in all honesty, it pales in comparison to the Williams AFB spill of Jet ‘A’ and TCE across the street.

    So I guess it is all relative. But they do try to keep things quiet. Even the Chandler councilman/EX GM facilities manager is keeping quiet.
    Otherwise he might be seen as “not quite so green.”

  • avatar
    MikeInCanada

    Why spend tens of millions to clean these places up?

    The prospect of these “Grey field” sites ever being used again for industrial purposes is slight, so what’s the benefit?

    How about skipping the cleanup all together and charge to dump even more crap into the site?

    I’m serious.

    Toronto already send it’s trash to Michigan, got to put it somewhere you know…

  • avatar
    Searay77

    No, that is wrong. They wanted to do residential housing, but the extent of the pollution eliminated that. Like the Van Nuys facility. They just concrete over it all and make a shopping center where humans will only make incidental contact with exposed dirt.
    The only avenue for usage at all is industrial. Light industrial. Or vacant land. That’s wise use alright…

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Surprisingly, I’m OK with the government picking up the tab, even if GM shirks its responsibility to do so. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the government to protect its citizens.

    However, I’m not sure what “contaminated” means, and whether this contamination violated enironmental regulations (or lack thereof) going back over the last 100 years. Does GM contest their responsibility in the matter?

    $19.5 million sounds cheap – only about $2.20 per square foot. GM was losing that much money every day back in 2008.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    “andyinsdca :
    I’m very surprised that this isn’t a Superfund site.”

    It probably can qualify as one and then tax dollars via EPA will pay for it. Either way it will be on the taxpayers dime and yes, I believe it does need to be done.

  • avatar
    Bridge2far

    You can’t even close a gas station without site clean-up. No surprise that a large industrial manufactering facility requires remediation. Oh, it was a GM plant. Now I see…

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    Probably all Dexcool leaked in the shipping lot.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Well, they could pave the site over and recreate the car-themed amusement park that opened in downtown Flint…

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    Funny thing about that plant is in 95 GM announced they were going to extensively revamp it with a new bodyshop and flexible assembly lines. The UAW loudly protested GM’s intended use of non union contractors and the next thing you knew was GM shuttered the facility. Being as how Flint has got to be one of the poorest cities in the country today me thinks the UAW protested too much. They prevented the non union contractors and at the same time prevented all their jobs.

  • avatar

    The Buick site is three miles up the middle, not one.

  • avatar
    ZekeToronto

    The price tag seems way too cheap, considering that a leaking buried furnace oil tank in a residential setting can cost up to a quarter million (CDN) to remediate.

  • avatar
    Droftarts

    That’s a sobering picture for anyone who was there during the peak of Buick City. The cost of the clean up, when compared to the magnitude and longevity of the operation, reflects well on GM’s first world operating protocol. I wonder if their second and third world plants would fare as well?

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    Car assembly plants don’t produce much in the line of dangerous chemicals especially if management are serious about containment. The old GM North Plant in Oshawa which was there for many years was cleaned up with little fuss and fanfare. There were 2 large press rooms in that facility which would have been the worst offenders but even then it would be mostly hydraulic oil and die lube. Not insignificant but not a huge issue either. I would say a pure chemical plant or an oil refinery would be a nightmare by comparison to a car plant. The only thing you would notice in Oshawa was the smell of the paint shop but since the new paint facility opened even that is gone now or at least I don’t notice it anymore.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    To you fellas saying you would not mind if public funds are used to pay for cleanup:

    I’m with you…

    …but only if SOMEBODY or SOMEBODYS go(es) to jail. Where they are not allowed to see pictures of cars. Or pretty girls.

  • avatar
    rnc

    It probably can qualify as one and then tax dollars via EPA will pay for it. Either way it will be on the taxpayers dime and yes, I believe it does need to be done.

    No – The costs are picked up by whoever had any use of that property, that’s one of the reasons that new GM is keeping responsibility I imagine, if not whoever bought the pieces of the old GM would become responsible as well, and who would do that.

    In terms of costs, it’s just an estimate of (and they always do a favorable estimate) expected costs over a 30 year period (all they are required to accrue at any given time) based on what they do know, not what they don’t. Once they start putting in test wells and taking samples, I imagine that the costs will rise significantly and then every year they will accrue another year based on what they find in the current one.

  • avatar
    jacksonbart

    Not to worry let me just open my wallet… Oh wait its empty.

  • avatar
    ChristyGarwood

    IIRC, when old GM, now Motors Liquidation Co., was providing employees like me with links to public information regarding the BK proceedings back in June and early July 2009, public documents clearly stated that Motors Liquidation Co. had a few Billion with a Big B in the coffers set aside to clean up all the properties that were contanimated.

    Mikey, yes here in the USA GM normally does what it needs to do to clean soil and ground water before a site is redeveloped.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    rnc
    “No – The costs are picked up by whoever had any use of that property, that’s one of the reasons that new GM is keeping responsibility I imagine, if not whoever bought the pieces of the old GM would become responsible as well, and who would do that.”

    No, I disagree with your assessment. The following is from the EPA superfund site. If GM refuses or stalls then EPA cleans it up and tries to get the polluter to pay. If the new GM argues that it is responsibility of the old GM then either the Old GM or the taxpayer via EPA (the same entity in this case) is responsible. Why would the new GM pay for something that they didn’t create or currently own? Buick City long predates the new GM.

    “One of EPA’s top priorities is to get those responsible for the contamination (the PRPs) to clean up the site. If the PRP cannot be found, is not viable, or refuses to cooperate, EPA, the state, or tribe may cleanup the site using Superfund money. EPA may seek to recover the cost of clean up from those parties that do not cooperate.”

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