Contractor ordered to pay $4.7M for filling holes with dirty dirt in Detroit

A six-year-long investigation into a construction company's use of dirty dirt has come to an end.

The owner of Den-Man Contractors, based out of Warren, has been ordered to pay $4.7 million to the City of Detroit and is banned from doing business in the city for the next 20 years.

Back in 2018, Detroit was knocking down vacant properties left and right – leaving holes in the ground that needed to be filled. 

At the time, Den-Man Contractors was hired to fill the holes with uncontaminated dirt, but the city’s inspector general said that is not what happened. 

Den-Man was "not only charging for free dirt, which you are not allowed to do, but using dirty dirt to fill the hole that has been created by the demolition process," said Ellen Ha, Detroit's inspector general.

The dirty dirt came from I-96 and I-94 reconstruction projects and commercial properties, Ha said. "If it came from a gas station or from a highway, you have all these contaminants."

And tests back it up.

"Arsenic, mercury, and other toxic materials," were found in the dirt, Ha said.

Den-Man allegedly continued using contaminated dirt to fill roughly 90 residential properties throughout Detroit over a two-year period.

"By then, they had already received millions of dollars in contracts," Ha said.

The construction company is also accused of not paying for the contaminated dirt, but charging for it anyway.

"That’s creating a false record and invoicing the city on dirt you didn’t pay for, and telling the city that you paid for it," the inspector general said.

Both David Holman, the owner of Den-Man, and his contracting manager, David MacDonald, were charged with felonies and given probation. 

"We will investigate, and we will hold contractors accountable for their actions," Ha said.

Part of the $4.7 million that Den-Man was ordered to pay was used to dig up the contaminated soil and replace it with clean dirt – a process that is now complete.