The Devries family has rechristened the Monroe Avenue Water Filtration Plant as Clearwater Plaza. About a year ago they purchased the property from Dykema Excavators Inc. and have since been redeveloping the old utility plant into a residential and commercial complex. That's all very nice, and one would normally want to wish the Devries well in their rehabilitation of a nationally registered historic landmark.
History: Dykema Excavators flipped the filtration plant to the Devries after it had finished using the property as a unlicensed landfill for hazardous waste. Dykema Excavators and others dumped at least 20,000 tons of toxic soil into the plant's empty concrete water tanks. This waste came from the site of the nearby Boardwalk project. Soil samples collected by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and analyzed by forensic geologist Robert Hayes confirm the dumping.
Question: What have the Devries done with the toxic soil dumped at the filtration plant?
History: When the City of Grand Rapids put the filtration plant up for sale in 1999, the Devries offered $600,000 for it. Dykema Excavators offered only $400,000 and got the property. On the face of it, it would appear that the taxpayers got screwed. Instead of the taxpayers receiving an additional $200,000 for the property in 1999, Dykema Excavators turned a profit on the place when it flipped it to the Devries in 2004.
Question: Why did the City steer the filtration plant away from the high bidder (the Devries) to sell it to a lower bidder (Dykema Excavators)?
History: After the City Commission was persuaded in 1999 to sell the filtration plant to Dykema Excavators instead of the Devries, it was concerned about Dykema Excavators' reputation. So the Commission required that the purchase agreement include a provision that forced Dykema Excavators to have all fill it brought to the filtration plant inspected at its source by the City Engineer to ensure that it was not toxic material. However, immediately after the sale was closed, the City suspended this inspection regime and Dykema Excavators began dumping hazardous waste from the Boardwalk project at the filtration plant.
Question: Who directed the City Engineer to suspend the inspection regime?
History: A month after it acquired the filtration plant, Dykema Excavators bored holes through the bottoms of the concrete water tanks it later dumped the Boardwalk's hazardous waste into. This allowed the toxic materials in that waste to migrate into the watertable beneath the plant.
Question: Why did the City permit this in light of the filtration plant's proximity to the Grand River?
History: After landfilling the filtration plant with hazardous waste, Dykema Excavators planned on leasing the plant to a non-profit front it created in conjunction with its engineering consultants Prein & Newhof. The organization was named the Global Enterprise for Water Technologies, or GEWT for short. By leasing instead of selling the plant to GEWT, no new environmental testing would need to be done (which would reveal the presence of the new toxic materials dumped there). As a non-profit GEWT could solicit large government and private grants. In fact, GEWT claimed to have lined up commitments of money and material assistance from the MDEQ, Michigan State University, and philanthropist Peter Wege totaling as much as $30 million. By November 2000, GEWT had built up a head of steam, talked of its clout to get more funding from state officials, and threw a big gala opening. Immediately after that it folded its tent in the wake of formal complaints of illegal dumping of hazardous waste at the filtration plant.
Question: Why did GEWT's support dry up causing the organization to collapse if were not inside knowledge of illegal dumping at the filtration plant?
Don't expect the Grand Rapids Press to answer these questions for you. It's too busy running puff pieces. So, stay tuned here for further inquiry into the murky, muddy mess that is Clearwater Plaza.