Michigan was and still is a big manufacturing state. Drive around any old town and you’ll likely come across mills, plants, facilities and other buildings that were or are still homes of manufacturing activities. It’s not only been a major employer for Michigan residents but manufacturing is ingrained in our history and our identity.
Quite recently, Flint Michigan made national news when it was discovered that high traces of lead were found in water after the city switched its water sources. These sorts of discoveries can have a scarring impact on a community and discourage future business growth and economic activity.
Unfortunately, environmental regulations didn’t really exist 100 years ago and many manufacturing companies had looser restrictions on how to dispose of their waste. Soil and groundwater of many Michigan properties became contaminated with poisonous materials like lead and petroleum as a result of leaking underground storage tanks and deliberate disposal of waste products.
Even buildings were built without proper knowledge of what was best for public health. The walls of many manufacturing facilities were lined with asbestos as an inexpensive insulation material or were improperly wired to pose a risk of fires.
This lead to a rise of brownfield sites throughout the state of Michigan, or properties that are not safe or environmentally sound for normal business activities, and became ugly non-usable and economic deterring locations throughout Michigan communities.
What Can Michigan Businesses Do?
Whether you’re a Michigan business owner that owns a contaminated property or just inquiring about a new property with no historical environmental record, there are a number of steps or factors you should be aware of that can improve properties in their communities.
Get an Environmental Site Assessment
There are Michigan based companies like PM Environmental that provide Phase I Environmental Site Assessments that help business owners identify things that are bad on their property (Phase I ESA Page). The purpose of environmental site assessments is to reduce risk during real estate transactions by identifying any environmental liabilities associated with the property that would negatively impact its value.
If you were to purchase a property and start up a business the last thing you would want to learn is that the property has a leaking underground storage tank that is contaminating the groundwater of your neighborhood and you are now financially responsible to clean it up.
To avoid these situations a Phase I ESA is required across the United States during any exchange of commercial real estate, particularly if it had a history of any previous industrial activity. For current property owners it is good to know when a Phase I ESA was last completed for your property as the rules and regulations according to the ASTM E1527 change on occasion.
Environmental consultants follow these environmental due diligence standards and conduct an investigation of the property in question. This may involve a visual inspection of the site, interviews with officials and past owners, and gathering and analyzing historical records of a property. They provide the property owners and anyone else involved with the real estate transaction with a detailed report known as a Phase I ESA report. In it they outline the probability of environmental contamination and determine whether or not further investigations or testing of the property is necessary.
Get Connected with your Community
If you suspect that a property you are interested in or own is contaminated there may be funds and incentives available from the Michigan DEQ that encourage cleanup of the property. These funds are available at the national and state level and can also be found in local community organizations. A great deal of planning is necessary to apply for a fund and if you hire an environmental consultant they can assist with this process.
You may also want to investigate any tax benefits associated with cleaning up and reusing the property. These benefits are often available at the state level and can make long term ownership of the property worthwhile.
Other organizations may be able to assist with guiding you through the process of cleaning up an environmentally contaminated property. Environmental agencies, community groups, banks and lenders, real estate developers, federal government agencies and other environmental consultants can help point you in the right direction and provide referrals.