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Lowell city council had their latest regular meeting at city hall on Monday, May 20

Lowell city council had their latest regular meeting at city hall on Monday, May 20. The meeting lasted one hour and 14 minutes and was attended by nine citizens.

The council discussed a defunct city landfill on Ware Rd. It was in use from the 1950s through the 1980s and has recently been identified by the state as a source of pollution. The land, southeast of town, is still owned by the city of Lowell, who will be responsible for clean up at the site.

“In late April I received notice from the Michigan Environment, Great Lakes and Energy Department now known as 'EGLE,' which used to be DEQ [Department of Environmental Quality], pertaining to the Ware Rd. landfill owned by the city,” said Lowell city manager Michael Burns. “We were informed of the report from 1987 that indicated groundwater contamination existed at the property from landfill leachate. At the time, levels of tetrachloroethylene, dichloroethane and carbon tetrachloride above the minimal impact levels were detected. In the 1980s there was communication between the then Department of Natural Resources and the city to take steps to address this, but it appears there was no action taken by the city, nor prompting from the DNR to do so. In our letter, we were directed to communicate and begin taking remediation actions.”

Grand Rapids firm BLDI Environmental Engineering is working with the city on this issue. Company president Joe Berlin attended the meeting to provide information and answer questions from the council members.

“This work that was done was actually done in November of 1986,” Berlin said. “It was to identify if there was any kind of problem. It was a very general initial step. They [the state] installed three monitoring wells in the northern part of the former landfill. They did find tetrachloroethylene at 9.5 parts per billion. Just to give a comparison, the clean up criteria for safe drinking water is at five parts per, so it's a little bit above that. We don't know if that's the highest concentration in that area. Again, that's over 30 years ago. […] The wells are in serviceable condition. We talked to a surveying company to come in and identify where the property lines are on the north, east and west sides. […] We would use the existing wells to identify the groundwater direction today as opposed to what was done over 30 years ago.”

“Do you have any clue, best case/worst case, what this is going to cost or is it way too early,” asked councilor Cliff Yankovich.

“The logical next step, I just did some initial numbers, probably you're looking at $5,000 a monitoring well,” Berlin said. “You've got five or six monitoring wells at least, so you can do that math. Plus all the other work on top of that.”

“If there is industrial waste there, which it sounds like from their description they have some reason to believe there is, there aren't that many businesses locally that could be a source for that,” said councilor Greg Canfield. “If it's their stuff and they dumped it there, I think they have some culpability also.”

“I wouldn't disagree with you, the only problem is there are minimal records to this site that I'm aware of,” Burns said. “I spent half a day trying to find records, and I found a deed and that's about all I found.”

“People paid to dump there, correct, there was a fee charged,” Canfield asked.

“My understanding, yes,” Burns said.

“So there is just nothing for records,” Canfield asked.

“If there's records at Public Works that I'm not aware of, maybe they're there, but that's the only place I haven't checked yet,” Burns said.

“This isn't something that we need right now with our current financial situation,” Canfield said. “This could turn into significant money. Could this get to a million dollars?”

“I can't tell at this point,” Berlin said. “Right now what I would tell you is when I see the data, it's slightly below clean up criteria. If everything else falls in line with that, then we're on the lower end. If the concentrations go up and they go long distances, just simply investigating it could run well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. But we don't know that yet so I would caution anyone to project this out.”

BLDI and the city will look into sources of grant money to assist with the cost of the clean up.

The council discussed various aspects of the S. Broadway infrastructure project with Prein & Newhof engineer Brian Vilmont.

“The change order that's before you is a change order because we didn't have this work in the original contract,” Vilmont said. “At the time we did the original design, the King Milling site development was still up in the air, so we hadn't included the paving and the curb work and the reset of the road because at the time we didn't, frankly, know where that section of Broadway was really going to end up and how it would interface with the site. What we didn't want to do was pave a bunch of curbs or set anything else in there that might end up getting ripped up. We thought that would look bad and really upset the public for spending money and then ripping things back up.”

“I think they [King Milling] should foot the bill for that,” said mayor Michael DeVore.

“If we were to plant grass at $0.50 a square foot, and now we're looking at $10,000 in paving, I think we've helped them [King Milling] on this project enough already,” Canfield said.

“If they're going to change it, they need to come back to the planning commission and then have it all resubmitted,” said councilor Marty Chambers.

“We would ask them to do it if it wasn't King Milling,” DeVore said. “We would ask any other company.”

“Any other company,” Chambers said.

DeVore said the city council, the planning commission and King Milling would have a meeting at some point prior to the next city council meeting to hash out details regarding the railroad tracks, the alley, a new sign and other S. Broadway issues.

The council voted to approve a maximum of $68,000 for Hudsonville company JAVO Construction. The company will serve as the city's construction inspector and project manager during the Showboat construction process. JAVO owner Jim VanOverloop was at the meeting to answer questions and discuss the project with the council. He explained how he came up with the $68,000 figure.

“I took the schedule that was put out by the Showboat committee, 34 weeks,” VanOverloop said. “I'd come three days a week and spend three hours, you do the math.”

VanOverloop said the most important thing he will do is prevent the possibility of condensation anywhere on the new Showboat, because condensation creates destructive rust. He also said it will be his final major project before he retires.

Finally, with no discussion, the council unanimously passed the city's 2019/2020 budget.

Lowell city council's next regular meeting will be at 7 pm on Monday, June 3. The council will also meet with the public at a “Coffee with the Council” event at Lowell Chamber of Commerce headquarters on the Riverwalk from 8 until 10 am on Saturday, June 1.

To watch various city council, board and commission meetings from the recent past, visit the "City of Lowell" channel on YouTube.



BLDI Environmental Engineering president Joe Berlin answering questions from the city council about contamination at the old city dump on Ware Rd.

Lowell city council in discussion at their Monday, May 20 meeting.

JAVO Construction owner Jim VanOverloop discussed the Lowell Showboat with the council.

Prein & Newhof engineer Brian Vilmont presented the council with some changes to the S. Broadway infrastructure project.

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