Peerless Plating

Known Site of Contamination:
Peerless Plating

Peerless Plating was placed on the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Priority List in 1988 to help ensure that cleanup activities at this polluted site take place.

Since the site was identified in 1983, cleanup efforts by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the EPA have made a tremendous impact on the pollution. However, current research by scientists at Grand Valley State University suggests the site may still be a source of pollution and that soils from the site may be moving downstream, causing problems in Little Black Creek.

Recent sediment samples taken from the creek at the site still have elevated levels of pollutants. Amphipods, small shrimp-like creatures that were placed in samples of water and sediment from the creek, died almost immediately. This is an indication that current cleanup activities may not be enough.

Due to these findings and a grant from the Lake Michigan Federation, the Mona Lake Watershed Council is working to inform you of the health risks associated with pollution in Little Black Creek as well as to find financial resources to get the creek’s “hot spots” cleaned up.

Peerless Plating, once located near the northeast corner of Getty and Sherman, was an electroplating facility that was in operation from 1937 to 1983. Electroplating is a process in which metal is used to coat other materials. Forty years of operation left behind a legacy of pollution that has plagued Little Black Creek and the surrounding community.

In 1983, the plant was closed and left abandoned by its owners, leaving behind hazardous plating solutions, raw materials and drummed waste. This is when the state discovered a number of other dangerous conditions left behind. The drains inside one of the buildings did not connect to the wastewater treatment system; instead wastes drained directly into the ground. They also found three unlined ponds behind the facility where chemicals were dumped, all within a few feet from the creek. As a result of the dumping activities, groundwater and soils were contaminated along with water and soil in the creek.

The EPA was notified when the owners failed to take immediate action to remove dangerous hydrocyanic acid gas detected in the air. At this time, corrective action was taken to remove the toxic gas and 37,000 gallons of hazardous waste, drain the ponds, remove soil from the area, clean the interior of the building, and seal sewer lines.

In 1988, the EPA added the site to its national pollution priority list and a study was done to evaluate the extent of the remaining contamination. The study resulted in the removal of another 17,000 tons of soil and the construction of a groundwater treatment system.

Studies by scientists at the Annis Water Resources Institute of Grand Valley State University measured some of the highest concentrations of cadmium ever recorded in the Great Lakes Region, right in Little Black Creek.

The current cleanup activity at the Peerless Plating site, located at 2554 Getty Avenue in Muskegon Township, is groundwater treatment through an onsite treatment system. The DEQ is responsible for management of the site and employs a subcontractor for full-time oversight. The EPA is financially responsible for the cleanup costs through 2012, at which time the State picks up the cost.

The treatment system includes:

  • Six underground wells that pull the groundwater into the treatment facility.
  • A Ferrous System used to add lime and iron; these aid the process of “settling” the pollutants out of the water.
  • Numerous phases designed to take the pollutants out of the water.
  • Two large sludge tanks used to separate the solids (which contain the pollutants) from the liquid.
  • The solids are compressed and dried and the water is rerun through the treatment system.
  • Clean process water is neutralized and discharged back into Little Black Creek.
  • The solid dried sludge of contaminants is taken to a hazardous waste landfill.

One ton of dried contaminants (and four tons of waste product, iron and lime) is generated weekly and 200,000 gallons of water are treated daily.