By Jan Worth-Nelson
RACER Trust, a company organized to clean up and sell abandoned General Motors properties, has scheduled two public meetings in Flint for at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, in the Harding Mott University Center on the UM-Flint campus and at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, at the Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle on East Myrtle Avenue near Industrial Avenue.
The focus, according to information provided by the company, will be on “environmental work at Buick City, and the relatively recent discovery in groundwater of a new contaminant that is getting statewide attention — the class of chemicals known as PFAS, for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.”
RACER stands for “Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response.”
PFAS chemicals, as described by company representatives, are associated with waterproofing and other protective coatings and have been used by hundreds of industries and in consumer products including carpeting, clothing, upholstery, food wrappers, firefighting foams and metal plating.
“From what we know,” RACER trust spokespersons said, “PFAS at Buick City is not affecting anybody’s drinking water.”
Once one of the biggest manufacturing complexes in the world, closure of the 235-acre Buick City site in 1999 created one of the largest brownfields in the state. In its heyday the complex employed nearly 30,000; it was the manufacturing home of the Buick Regal and Buick LeSabre, and its bright lights were one of the first things travelers saw when coming into Flint from the north on I-475.
In August, a Lear Seating Plant opened, occupying about 15 percent of the site. As detailed in this EVM report, Lear, a global corporation doing business in 39 countries, does subassembly and final assembly of automotive seats. The Flint facility has 156,000 square feet, with 30 percent of the more than 33-acre site set aside for green space. It opened with 100 production employees, most from the Flint area, with plans to increase to 600 and three shifts over the next few years.
EVM Editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response (RACER) Trust was created to clean up and sell industrial properties formerly owned by General Motors but abandoned during the automaker’s bankruptcy. One such property is Buick City, a large former manufacturing complex that stretches two miles from end to end north of downtown Flint.
RACER Trust has worked closely with community leaders to find buyers for its properties that will bring new jobs to the Flint area. We are proud to have been a part of Lear Corporation’s and American Spiralweld‘s decisions to build new manufacturing operations and create hundreds of jobs at Buick City.
RACER Trust also likes to talk directly with neighbors, especially about environmental matters. Our goal is to provide information and answer questions in an open setting. With that in mind, we want to update the Flint community on our work and what can be expected in the near future at Buick City.
The state has a limit for PFAS in drinking water, and this limit was exceeded in one homeowner’s well in Genesee Township (out of a dozen sampled) near RACER’s Coldwater Road property. Though it is unclear where the PFAS came from, RACER Trust installed a filtration system in the home, in cooperation with the Genesee County Health Department, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. We are continuing to run tests to investigate the source of the PFAS in that well.
PFAS has been found at several other RACER Trust properties. We collected samples at these sites on our own in response to growing statewide and national attention to PFAS issues and in cooperation with environmental regulators and public health agencies. We will continue to work hard to understand all of these sites and what may be required at each.
We hope all who attend our upcoming public meetings leave with a better understanding of what RACER Trust is, what we know about environmental conditions at Buick City and what our responsibility is to address them. If we cannot answer a question, we will do our best to get the information we need to provide an answer and get back to the person who asked. If we do not have enough information to give an answer, we will say so. We are committed to sharing what we know with the community and its leaders. To that end, we expect to schedule a follow-up Buick City information meeting in late February or early March.
We ask for the community’s patience and understanding. The presence of PFAS presents unanticipated challenges, but we have an experienced cleanup team that is working hard to learn what we need to know so we can prepare these sites for new industrial uses.
As a final note, neither American Spiralweld or Lear Corporation are impacted by the discovery of PFAS – the contamination is below the ground surface in groundwater. However, RACER will not close on any further sales of the Buick City property until we have a cleanup plan for PFAS. We are continuing to aggressively market the property, to be in the best possible position to sell it once we have a cleanup plan in place.
We invite all who are interested to join us in Flint at either of the two upcoming public meetings. You also can stay up to date about Buick City and other RACER Trust information by visiting our website, racertrust.org.
Patricia Spitzley is Deputy Redevelopment Manager for RACER Trust. Grant Trigger is Michigan Cleanup Manager for RACER Trust.