2017-08-13 / Front Page

St. Charles testing for contaminants at office building

By Jeanne Marcello
Staff Reporter

VILLAGE OF ST. CHARLES – The St. Charles Village Council has hired an environmental testing/remediation firm to investigate serious environmental concerns at the village office, with particular focus on the village police department’s office area.

During the last week in July, Saginaw County Sheriff William Federspiel pulled his deputies out of the St. Charles substation due to health concerns at the office. According to St. Charles Village manager Matthew Lane, one of the deputies who worked out of the St. Charles substation came down with an illness. The St. Charles Police Department shared office space with the sheriff’s department.

During the Aug. 9 meeting, Lane told the council, “I’m sure you’re aware we have some questions about [contamination at the village office]. We have more questions than answers at this point.”

Lane introduced Karl Primdahl of AKT Peerless, a company specializing in environmental services.

Trustee Christine Neumann said, “We tested this building before.”

Primdahl said the previous report was done by someone else, in 2013. That report states there is a vapor intrusion, which was tested at one point. The core sample tested back then showed the contamination was below the threshold for required remediation.

He explained even if those levels are unchanged today, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is about to lower the threshold.

Primdahl told the council the northeast corner of the building has some very hot soil.

Neumann told Primdahl, “I believe it was your company that helped us remove the [gas] tanks years ago.” Primdahl responded, “That was 25 years ago.” He explained the DEQ had sampled the area in 2013 and 2015. “We’re going to collect the data [on the site].”

Neumann said, “I’m having a problem; we paid for this once before. I have a problem with this contract; it’s pretty open. It’s not just going to cost $25,000. [It’s that plus whatever has to be done to clean it up].”

Primdahl explained this contract is to determine what the extent of the contamination is. “I’m talking soil borings, and sampling vapors. This is a contract for the monitoring and investigation, not the cleanup.”

A woman who lives behind the village office informed them there are two square monitoring wells in her yard. She doesn’t know how long they’ve been there.

Primdahl explained those would be ground water monitoring wells that were installed in 1992. He was not aware of them.

Trustee Diana Kutz spoke up saying, “I think we want our employees to be safe. But, I like a contract that’s more balanced. You’re talking about doing it very quickly though, in three weeks?”

Primdahl said, “Normally we say we’d be out within three weeks. I’ve already called MISS DIG.” He explained he wants to get the team working on St. Charles’ problem as soon as possible.

Neumann said, “I spent 30 years [working] in the office next to the police department. [I didn’t get sick.]”

Lane said, “This is something we should’ve taken care of and haven’t. There is some sort of environmental impact. The issue of whether it causes cancer is irrelevant.”

Primdahl said, “We do know we have very hot impacted soil in that area.”

A woman in the audience asked, “Why wasn’t that found in 1992?”

Neumann responded, “We don’t know.”

Primdahl said, “They’ve taken some soil borings and vapor. It could possibly have migrated to adjacent property. We’ve got to find out how far.”

Village president Marie Roe said, “If I lived beside it, I’d want to know.”

Neumann said, “I’m not [questioning the need] because I’m not sick.”

Roe said, “You can call it a coincidence [that two people working in the police office got sick with the same type of Leukemia.].”

Primdahl said, “Eventually, the DEQ will make you do something.”

Trustee Jim McPhail said, “I’d like to be proactive.”

Roe asked, “If the sheriff pulled out, where can we put our team?”

Lane said they’re considering moving the squad room to another area of the office building. Kutz asked Primdahl, “Will you be able to find out what it’s origin is?” Primdahl said, “Yes ma’am, we can tell.” He said he’s confident the impacted soil came from the DPW’s underground tanks. But he asked what other contaminants the DPW might have had onsite.

Trustee Thomas White asked, “Based upon your experience, any way of knowing how far it’s going?”

Primdahl responded, “I don’t have the answers until I do some research. On a building of this size, there should be 10 monitoring points. Allow us to collect samples. Right now, you have one vapor sampling point.”

White asked, “How long to get the results?”

Primdahl said, “Normally it’s a 10-day turnaround.” He added they could get results faster, but it would cost a lot more.

Kutz asked if the sampling would impact the current employees.

Primdahl said, “No, ma’am.”

Neumann asked if the vapor can come through the cement without any cracks.

Primdahl said, “Yes. There is a way to eliminate the vapor without digging it up.”

Neumann said, “We’re doing this because three people got sick.”

Kutz said, “I think we’d be remiss if we don’t check this out.”

Neumann asked, “When the DEQ shows up, would we be able to use your report?”

Primdahl said, “We work with the DEQ. I’ve dealt with them many times.”

Neumann asked, “If we do this, step one is done, right? Then we just wait for the DEQ to tell us what to do.”

Lane said, “Whatever plan comes out of this would be DEQ approved. I think what the DEQ is going to say is we’ve got to remove the contaminated soil.”

Neumann asked, “So why don’t we just clean it up?”

Lane responded, “We wouldn’t know how far.”

Primdahl said, “If you’ll allow me, I’d be with you through the release, get you through the cleanup.”

Neumann said, “So if we have to remove the soil, that’s when the numbers come in?”

A council member asked Lane whether he obtained bids for the work.

Lane responded, “I’m familiar with this company and felt we can’t wait.”

St. Charles Village Police Chief Allen Rabideau told the council, “I’ve been here about a year and a half. There’s vapor smells. It’s making people sick.” He described what he has to do to reduce the odor in the office space and said people get sick when they go into the evidence room. Each time the DPW cleaned it up, it helped for a few days, but then the odor returned.

Rabideau said it’s not a petroleum smell. Primdahl said it doesn’t smell like gasoline, it’s more of a sewer smell.

Rabideau said, “I’m scared for my employees. No longer can we say, ‘It’s not our problem.’”

The neighbor woman said, “We’ve smelled it too.”

Chief Rabideau said, “Every day, I have to open the windows and turn on the fan. I’m trying to stay out of the building as much as possible. Mr. Lane, he’s done a great job.”

The chief recalled back in 1996, when he worked law enforcement in Saginaw. “I heard, stay out of St. Charles, stay out of this building.”

Lane said, “We’ve come in after a couple of weekends and the smell in this building is unbearable.”

Kutz said, “I think we need to do the testing and see the results.”

President Roe asked, “Have we discussed this enough?”

The entire council voted in favor of signing the contract with AKT Peerless in the amount of $30,342 for environmental testing services.

Lane presented a list of budget transfers that would enable the village to pay for the work without changing the total amount budgeted for the year. The council also approved the recommended transfers.

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