City of Menominee to increase PFAS testing to monthly

Mike Thorsen of Infrastructure Alternatives Inc. is the project manager for Menominee. The company will increase PFAS testing to monthly starting in January, he said Wednesday at the Water and Wastewater Utility Board meeting.

EagleHerald Staff Writer

MENOMINEE—The City of Menominee in January will start testing for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances monthly, but Mike Thorsen of Infrastructure Alternatives Inc. said he doesn’t expect to find an excessive level of PFAS.

Infrastructure Alternatives, based in Rockford, Mich., serves as the City of Menominee’s water and wastewater utilities manager and tests water and wastewater for PFAS, lead and copper, total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) and COVID-19. A recent test for mercury showed it was well below the limit, said Thorsen, project manager for Menominee.

The company does quarterly sampling at the Menominee Waste Water Treatment Plant, but the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy wants monthly PFAS testing starting in January. “They’re seeing variances in concentrations and want it more closely monitored,” Thorsen said at the Nov. 10 Water and Wastewater Utility Board meeting.

Thorsen reported a PFAS level of 19 micrograms per kilogram (µg/kg). “Anything over 150 they don’t want land applied,” he told the EagleHerald after the meeting. “We take solids and apply them on farm land for nutrients.”

The sludge is from the Waste Water Treatment Plant, 1301 5th Ave., located behind the shopping center near the river. “Farms use it for their nutrients,” he said.

The additional testing is expected to cost an extra $1,000 per quarter. In October, the city extended its contract with Infrastructure Alternatives for two-and-a-half years and agreed to increase the fee it pays the company by 10% for the first 18 months of the extension and by 2% for the following year of the contract.

Instead of the current fee of $957,000 per year, the city will pay Infrastructure Alternatives $1.05 million through June 2023 and $1.07 million from July 2023 to June 2024, according to the new agreement. The company said the increase is necessary to cover the rising cost of labor, chemicals, utilities, increased regulations and pandemic response.

Mac McClelland, a business consultant who spoke at a recent Brownfield Development Authority board meeting, said the old Kmart property in front of the Wastewater Treatment Plant was contaminated, but Thorsen said Wednesday the soil or groundwater would have to be tested to determine whether it actually is contaminated.

“I think they were just testing it. I don’t know if they found it,” Thorsen said.

Asked about the possibility of a leak from the Wastewater Treatment Center, Thorsen said, “No.”

It’s possible there is no contamination at the site. To determine whether a site meets Michigan’s criteria as a contaminated site, soil and groundwater samples would be analyzed, said Janet Michaluk, Brownfield coordinator at the Remediation & Redevelopment Division of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

McClelland said the site must be contaminated for the property to qualify for special funds, but Michaluk disputed that.

“Site preparation is an eligible activity for more than just contaminated sites,” Michaluk said.

Site preparation also can be eligible for special funds in core communities if the property is blighted, functionally obsolete or historic. “Site preparation is actually considered a non-environmental activity,” she said.

Demolition, infrastructure improvements and abatement of lead, asbestos and mold also are considered eligible activities for a Brownfield Tax Incremental Financing project.

Keith Killen, owner of M&M Plaza Enterprises, which owns the Kmart property, said the building is obsolete. It hasn’t yet been tested for contamination, he said Thursday.

“In order to (demolish) the building, they’ll have to test the building,” he said. He didn’t dispute some contamination might exist. “If you look for it, you can find it anywhere,” he said.

But the reason the Kmart site has sat empty for so long is because no buyer sees the value in the outdated building, Killen said. “It’s about the obsolescence of the property. It cannot be developed with that building there. It’s obsolete. I say that as the owner of the building. No one wants that building.”

The building lost value because it wasn’t updated, Killen said. “Ultimately Kmart sucked up the value of that property over a number of years. They weren’t delivering value to it, taking care of it, making it better, developing it,” he said.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy and the Michigan Strategic Fund must review the Brownfield plan if the Brownfield Authority wants to use the 18 mills of school operating tax and 6 mills of state education tax for the project, Michaluk said. If the special funds aren’t included in the project, the state agencies won’t necessarily be involved in reviewing it.