Southwest Detroit dumping cleanup raises safety concerns

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One area of southwest Detroit has been an illegal dumping ground for decades.

The cleanup is now underway, but how it is being done is raising questions. Activist Sheila Crowell has taken photos of the dust in the air at the industrial site at 6100 McGraw in southwest Detroit.

It has been the site of massive amounts of illegal dumping for decades - FOX 2 first showed you this derelict property way back in 2010. Now it's finally being cleaned up, but neighbors are worried about what's in the air.

"I'm grateful it's coming down, but do it the right way," said Crowell.

Crowell has been fighting to clean up this property for years - but says more water is needed to keep the toxins here from floating into the neighborhood.

"Wind and dust and everything is (blowing through), so what - because they live in a poor neighborhood, because they're sick? It does matter," she said.

On this day FOX 2 visited the property again, this time with the state's Department of Environment Great Lakes and Energy.

Joe Degrazia said he has concerns about what's on the property.

"My understanding is there is asbestos from asbestos piping and things like that," he said. "There's tires, there's still tires on the property - there's some that were removed. You've got the oil pits back there, it looks like oil, but not sure what the composition is of it."

Which is why it's so important that water be sprayed on the property during the cleanup. 

"You're going to build up a lot of dust, so as long as dust control is in place - that will keep it from going off-site," Degrazia said.

But Crowell says the dust control measures in place on this day are not being used regularly. She also says the workers there don't even have a bathroom on site.  

The general contractor says they are getting one. He also says he's cleaning up 16 acres and has already hauled away 5,000 tires during the past two weeks they've been working -but he admits the dust is a concern. 

"No matter how much water we put on it - it's going to get airborne," said Sam Sala, Berkshire Development. "Our concern is to make sure we're in compliance with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality - and we've been in compliance."

Joe Degrazia says the state will stay on top of the inspections - but warns people to stay away from the contaminated site.

"It's contained in this footprint of the property so as long as the public doesn't access the property," he said, "it's pretty minimal on what they'll be exposed to."