Please provide a brief overview of the project.
Goal: The overall goal of the project was to transform a former industrial waste landfill site into the home of a green energy manufacturer, Ventower Industries, which is a full-service fabricator and supplier of industrial scale wind turbine towers. Furthermore, each project stakeholder had individual goals within that overarching goal:
- Ventower: to construct a 115,000 square-foot wind turbine tower manufacturing plant in a location served by rail, highway and port; and overcome the construction and environmental obstacles posed by the site, which happened to be a former industrial waste landfill;
- Port of Monroe: to catalyze development of its industrial park, which is located on the landfill, and mitigate environmental risks posed by the contaminated wastes/fill;
- City of Monroe: to create high-wage manufacturing jobs and increased tax base; and
- State of Michigan regulatory agency and U.S. EPA: to successfully use brownfield redevelopment funding to support the successful (job creation, economic activity and taxes) and protective (mitigation of human health and environmental risks) development of a brownfield site.
The industrial park and Ventower Industries also is part of the City of Monroe’s and Port of Monroe’s ongoing commitment to return former brownfield sites to productive new uses. Other efforts have included the River Raisin National Battlefield Park, the only former brownfield site to be added to the National Park System, and the 300-home, Mason Run new urbanism, residential neighborhood development. Both projects are located on the sites of former large paper mills that were within one mile of the Ventower site.
Location: Port of Monroe, Monroe, Michigan
Approximate Size: 28 acres
Former Use: The site was part of an industrial waste landfill that operated from the 1940s until the mid-1970s. The landfill was used to reclaim Lake Erie coastal wetlands to expand the Port of Monroe and its industrial park in the era before modern environmental laws and regulations.
Actual End Use:The site is now home to a new 115,000 square-foot, $22 million manufacturing facility for utilityscale wind turbine towers.
Date the project was completed: Construction was completed in December 2011. Production is now underway.
What makes this project unique?
This project’s uniqueness arises from the following combination of project characteristics and the challenges that were overcome:
- the new site use, which supports renewable energy development
- the complimentary project design components that maximized green and sustainable site preparation and environmental response techniques,
- construction and environmental challenges posed by the site’s former use as an industrial waste landfill, and the site’s unique natural and man-made geological features, and
- project financing challenges.
First , the Ventower project is a major contributor to the development of alternative (wind) energy sources across the upper United States. With transportation access to the entire Great Lakes water transportation system and the Atlantic Ocean, as well as regional and national rail and highway infrastructure, Ventower can supply wind turbine towers to a large portion of the burgeoning wind energy network. The new site use for heavy manufacturing achieved the desirable brownfield redevelopment goals of providing new, skilled, competitive-wage jobs; generating new taxes; reusing previously impacted land; and catalyzing additional redevelopment of the Port of Monroe’s industrial park.
Second, consistent with the green energy industry nature of Ventower’s product, the environmental and site preparation activities were designed to be green and sustainable. The greenest remediation and development approaches are those that consume the least resources, produce the least emissions, and have the least off-site impacts. The project’s environmental response actions relied on exposure mitigation techniques incorporated into the redevelopment design, instead of source removal, to sustainably address human health risks.
Development approaches, particularly the soil stabilization design, ensured protection of natural resources (the bedrock aquifer) while not increasing environmental response costs or other impacts to the environment. The environmental response actions and soil stabilization program generated no excess wastes requiring off-site disposal. These approaches, combined with minimizing engine idling and worker commutes, staging of equipment on-site, and use of biofuels where feasible, dramatically reduced fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and threats to the community from movement of hazardous materials.
See the answer to the question, “Could you describe the use of innovative environmental solutions in the project?” elsewhere in this document for a detailed description of environmental and site preparation activities.
Third, successful redevelopment of the site required the project team to overcome construction and environmental challenges posed by the site’s former use and unique geological features. The geological structure of the 28-acre site consisted of 8 feet to 14 feet of highly contaminated industrial wastes (foundry sand, coal tar, and other materials) and 6 feet to 12 feet of leachate, overlying up to two feet of peat (former wetlands bottom), then 15 feet to 20 feet of clay beneath that, then limestone/dolomite bedrock underneath. The unconsolidated fill/wastes and peat would not support the heavy loads of the manufacturing building, equipment, and tower components, and traditional foundation piles or caissons could not be installed through the clay layer to rest on the bedrock. The clay layer was protecting the bedrock aquifer from the contaminated leachate.
The solution to this geotechnical problem was the installation of more than 1,800 controlled modulus columns (CMCs) entirely within the fill to stabilize the soil and form a foundation pad for the building. This was accomplished without disrupting the integrity of the clay layer protecting the underlying bedrock aquifer, and without generating any excess spoils. Exposure barriers integrated into the building and site use design provided sustainable solutions for protecting human health.
Lastly, the project’s financing challenges were momentous. As a startup enterprise in the period immediately after the 2008 economic recession began, the company was unable to secure any commercial financing. The $22 million project was financed using only investor equity, a Small Business Administration loan, loans and grants from the State of Michigan, state and federal jobs and tax credits, brownfield grants and loans, and brownfield tax increment financing. By creatively combining environmental response actions with development components, over $2 million in state brownfield grants and loans, $2 million in EPA Revolving Loan Fund Grant loans, and $5.5 million in brownfield tax increment financing were secured to help finance the project.
The Ventower project stands out among other successful brownfield redevelopment projects because the site has, in effect, come full circle. It has been transformed from a former landfill for industrial wastes into a site for new industrial operations. It has been transformed from a environmental liability into an asset supporting a business that was developed and operates on environmentally-sound practices and contributes to the clean, green, environmentally-friendly, wind energy industry.
Now in full-time production, Ventower has achieved the intent of successful brownfield redevelopment, and more: the site is now home to a thriving business that has created jobs, generates new taxes, has further expanded the State of Michigan’s manufacturing base in clean energy production, and serves as a source of community pride. Ventower, a project that received funding assistance from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), is a great example of the effectiveness of that program in returning local, state and national benefits through economic growth, job creation, and expansion of energy independence.
Along with the jobs the new plant has created in the area, Ventower also has a developed a program with the Monroe County Community College to train and educate students to work in the wind turbine industry. Other local colleges also have expressed interest in developing partnerships with Ventower for similar advanced manufacturing training programs.
What were the primary funding sources?
The project was funded without access to commercial financing and had to rely solely on investor equity and brownfield and business incentives to succeed. The project consulting team worked with Ventower to obtain $16.5 million in state and federal financial incentives for the project, including the following combination of state brownfield grants and loans, tax abatements, tax credits, and brownfield tax increment financing:
- Brownfield funding
- $1,000,000 Michigan Brownfield Redevelopment Grant
- $1,000,000 Michigan Brownfield Redevelopment Loan
- $70,000 Michigan Brownfield Assessment Grant
- $2,000,000 loan from the Downriver Community Conference Brownfield Consortium EPA RLF Grant
- $5,500,000 Brownfield Tax Increment Financing
- Business financing
- Michigan Strategic Fund “Choose Michigan” grant/loan
- Michigan Industrial Facilities Tax abatement
- Michigan Economic Growth Authority jobs credits
- Federal Alternative Energy Tax Credit
- Michigan Brownfield Business Tax Credit
- Small Business Administration Section 504 loan approval
Securing the necessary financing for the project required over two years of creative planning, as well as extensive negotiations with multiple local, state, and federal entities.
What contaminants were present on the site?
The primary wastes disposed in the former industrial waste landfill were foundry sands; coal tar; miscellaneous, unidentified red, green, blue and yellow solids; and debris. Benzene and other volatile aromatic hydrocarbons from coal tar and petroleum solvents, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from coal tar and combustion ash; and a variety of heavy metals, including lead, cadmium and mercury, from foundry sand and other wastes were the primary contaminants of concern. The human exposure pathways of concern were direct contact and inhalation of vapors and contaminated particulates. The environmental pathways of concern were migration of contaminated leachate to nearby surface water bodies and into the underlying bedrock aquifer.
Remediation Technologies used for the Project: The economic and technical realities of redeveloping this site were not conducive to a traditional remediation approach. Contaminated industrial wastes, 8 feet to 14 feet thick, covered the site, and the water table was one foot to three feet below the ground surface; therefore, almost the entire waste mass was saturated. Remediation of the contamination by excavation, in situ treatment, or stabilization was not neither technically nor economically feasible, nor would it have been reasonable from a sustainable resource use perspective. Instead, SME’s environmental team focused on integrating exposure and environmental impact mitigation approaches into the project design to sustainably protect human health and the environment while supporting the economic feasibility of the project. SME’s geotechnical engineering team developed a soil stabilization/foundation construction approach that protected an underlying bedrock aquifer from contamination by landfill leachate and generated no construction wastes or excess fill. Exposure mitigation approaches included installation of direct contact exposure barriers, vapor intrusion barriers, storm water detention pond liners. These approaches are discusses in more detail in following responses.
Total Costs of Remediation:
- Site preparation - $400,000
- Remedial investigation - $75,000
- Remedial feasibility studies and designs - $100,000
- Site preparation - $125,000
- Vapor intrusion mitigation - $475,000
- Direct contact barrier - $2.5 million
- Landfill wastes stabilization - $1.25 million
- Storm water basin liners - $250,000
All of these activities and costs were eligible for state and EPA Brownfield funding. Environmental
Could you describe the use of innovative environmental solutions in the project?
SME designed and developed bid plans and specifications for a number of innovative, sustainable environmental response activities, including installation of direct contact barriers; installation of vapor intrusion mitigation systems under the manufacturing and office buildings; designing a building foundation system which would not compromise the protection of the aquifer; and more.
The direct contact pathway was mitigated by installing a 28-acre direct exposure barrier of eight inches to 30 inches of compacted clean fill over the entire site. The barrier thickness on each area of the site was commensurate with the loads imparted by equipment and materials movement and storage. The desired environmental result was installation of the required thickness of clean fill in each area of the site.
The vapor intrusion pathway was mitigated by installing a passive subslab depressurization system beneath the high-volume manufacturing building and a spray-applied, elastomeric, vapor barrier and passive subslab depressurization system beneath the smaller office spaces.
The primary risk pathway for protection of the environment was discharge of shallow contaminated groundwater/leachate in the industrial wastes to either surface water or the underlying aquifer. Surface water was protected by an existing, 7,000-foot long groundwater interceptor trench (French drain) system. The addition of compacted fill over the entire 28-acre site is expected to reduce precipitation infiltration and flow of groundwater into the trench, thus reducing the costs of groundwater extraction and treatment.
Protection of the underlying aquifer was accomplished by designing a building foundation support system that stabilized soils and avoided penetrating the thick, clay aquitard underlying the industrial waste shallow groundwater/leachate. Typical approaches to support the heavy foundation loads for such a structure would have been to drive piles through the clay into the bedrock or excavate and replace massive amounts of the fill. The former would potentially allow migration of contaminated leachate into the underlying bedrock aquifer, and the latter would not meet project sustainability objectives. The desired environmental results were to protect the integrity of the underlying clay stratum, and to minimize the amount of excess fill generated from foundation construction.
The final component of the remediation, the off-site disposal, was completely sustainable: the entire remediation and construction project was completed without generating any excess contaminated material which required off-site transportation or disposal.
How were the environmental results identified and measured?
The environmental results were identified and measured based on the following:
- compliance with state laws and regulations requiring brownfield redevelopment projects to be protective of human health and the environment;
- construction and post-construction testing of exposure mitigation systems to confirm proper construction and operation; and
- the amount of contaminated material removed and disposed off-site.
The success or failure of most of the environmental response approaches was predetermined by their design, and verified by quality control testing during construction. The human exposure pathways of concern for redevelopment of the site were direct contact and vapor/particulate inhalation. The pathway mitigation approaches were first developed conceptually and approved for Brownfield funding by the state regulatory agency and the EPA. Engineering designs were then developed and approved by the state regulatory agency as consistent with regulations requiring protection of human health during construction and reuse. This process ensured that the exposure mitigation systems were appropriate and sufficient.
An independent engineer monitored construction of the soil stabilization system, installation of the vapor intrusion mitigation systems, and construction of the exposure barriers. The depth of each of the controlled modulus columns installed to support the building foundation was monitored to verify that the underlying clay stratum was not penetrated. Installation of the passive subslab venting system under the manufacturing building was monitored to verify compliance with design specifications. Monitoring of positive flows in the vent risers confirmed proper operation of the depressurization system. Installation of the vapor barrier and depressurization system beneath the office building also was monitored by an onsite engineer, and the integrity of the barrier was field-verified by smoke testing.
Operation of the subslab depressurization system was verified by measurement of flow through the vent stacks. Construction of the exposure barriers was continually monitored by a field engineer to verify thickness, and compaction testing was conducted to verify compliance with design specifications.
The highest measure of the success and sustainability of the environmental actions on the Ventower site actually was how little active remediation was ultimately required. Measurement of the final component of the remediation, sustainability through minimization of off-site disposal, again, was easy, since not one cubic yard of contaminated fill was removed from the site.
Could you describe the breadth and depth of the remediation required, and was it executed under a consent order or other legal mandate?
As described above, the remedial objectives for the Ventower site were to mitigate human exposure pathways to allow safe future use of the site, while minimizing source removal. These objectives relied on the presence of an effective environment-protective, groundwater remediation system already in operation at the site to address existing threats to the environment. The amount of contaminated industrial wastes and leachate in the landfill made in situ and other on-site source remediation approaches, rather than pathway mitigation, technically and economically prohibitive. Removal of source material also would have been economically prohibitive and would have resulted in transferring wastes from one disposal site to another.
The fuel and energy requirements for any source remediation approach, and the added risks to the community and depletion of other landfill resources associated with a removal action, rendered source treatment or removal non-sustainable solutions.
The remediation/mitigation approach for the vapor intrusion pathway encompassed all 110,000 square feet of habitable buildings constructed on the site. The remediation/mitigation approach for the direct contact pathway, comprised of building floors, pavements, and compacted clean fill, encompassed the entire 28-acre active manufacturing site.
The remediation was not conducted under a consent order or other regulatory order; the remediation was conducted in compliance with state statutory and regulatory requirements to protect human health and the environment when redeveloping a contaminated site. Compliance with the statutory and regulatory obligations was confirmed through regulatory agency approval of the remediation approaches, designs, and performance specifications.
What was most challenging about the project?
First, financing a project and its excess costs of brownfield redevelopment - without access to commercial financing: the project got underway at a time when financing was becoming increasingly difficult due to economic conditions, so securing all available grants and loans was essential to make the project happen. Obtaining funding from every possible source for brownfield projects, and knowing how to apply for and maximize leveraged funds, was essential in moving the development forward. All geotechnical and construction materials and testing services, with the exception of foundations, were classified as brownfield redevelopment response actions to make them eligible for brownfield financing.
Second, designing building and pavement foundation support systems that would not require: 1) penetrating the clay aquitard and 2) generating excess fill spoils that would have to be disposed off-site. SME geotechnical engineers had to develop sophisticated soil stabilization, foundation, and structural floor slab designs to support the massive weights of the manufacturing equipment (up to 500,000 pounds) and finished towers (up to 140,000 pounds). The sophisticated designs were necessary due to the poor bearing capacity of the landfill soils and the prohibition from extending foundation support systems through the underlying clay to bedrock. Penetration of the clay could allow contaminated groundwater to flow into the underlying bedrock aquifer
For additional details on SME’s building foundation design solution, please see the answer to the question, “Could you describe the use of innovative environmental solutions in the project?” above.
Did the project receive any loans, grants or financial assistance from any public or private organizations?
Since Ventower was unable to secure commercial financing for the project, all redevelopment funding, except for investor equity, was secured through financial assistance from local , state, and federal organizations. SME worked with the client to secure over $4,070,000 in EPA and state brownfield grants and loans and $5,500,000 in tax increment financing to fund environmental response actions, the soil stabilization system needed to construct the plant on a landfill, and rail and port infrastructure improvements. Other project incentives included state and federal tax credits and abatements and state and federal business development grants,
loans and loan guarantees.
See the answer to the question, “What were the primary funding sources for the project?” for complete details on loans, grants and financial assistance.
Could you describe the collaboration that occurred among multiple parties to enable the project to excel?
The Ventower project, like most complex brownfield redevelopment projects, could not succeed without an effective, aggressive public-private partnership. This project had many public partners that were committed to the project's success:
- the Port of Monroe provided the land at a very low cost and lead efforts to secure over $8,000,000 in brownfield financing;
- the City of Monroe and Monroe Brownfield Authority approved $5,500,000 in tax increment financing;
- the Downriver Community Conference, a consortium of over 20 communities in Southeast Michigan, provided a $2,000,000 loan from its EPA RLF Grant and spearheaded the acquisition of the multi-million dollar Small Business Administration loan approval;
- the U.S. EPA and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality worked cooperatively and flexibly to provide brownfield financing, maximize the eligibility of site activities for funding, and support the use of exposure mitigation strategies;
- the Michigan Economic Development Corporation supported the project with multiple state business attraction incentives (grants, loans and tax credits);
- the Small Business Administration provided Ventower access to a multi-million dollar business development loan.
Ventower Industries also developed a program with the Monroe County Community College to provide in-plant training for skills, such as advanced welding, advanced metal cutting, and machine operations, applicable to the wind turbine and other manufacturing industries.
The Ventower project also would not have succeeded without the skills and insights of the following special project consultants
- Soil and Materials Engineers, Inc., Plymouth, MI - environmental, brownfield financing, geotechnical engineering, and construction monitoring and testing services;
- Honigman, Miller, Schwartz & Cohn, Detroit, MI - legal and financing support services
- DeMattia Group, Plymouth, MI - architectural and engineering services
- Menard; Bridgeville, PA - controlled modulus columns
What type of innovative designs and energy-efficient technologies were implemented?
Innovative designs and energy efficient technologies implemented as part of site redevelopment were previously described in responses to the questions, “What was most challenging about the project?” and “Could you describe the use of innovative environmental solutions in the Project?”
These included the following:
1) use of controlled modulus column technology to stabilize the landfill wastes without generating any excess material that had to be disposed off-site,
2) use of exposure mitigation techniques and existing environmental protection remedies to avoid expensive, technologically and logistically difficult, and resource-consuming source remediation,
3) use of passive rather than active subslab depressurization designs to minimize energy consumption, and
4) use of fuel and greenhouse gas reduction approaches during construction.
Planning is currently underway to install one or wind turbines on the site to provide electrical power to the manufacturing facility.
Excess power will be returned to the electrical grid. The presence of a large electrical generating station at the Port of Monroe
will facilitate this innovation.
What recyclable materials were used to classify this as a "green" development?
The project was a green development in many ways. The manufacturing plant is predominately made of steel with a high recycled steel content, which is itself recyclable at the end of the plant’s operational life. The use of materials, such as brick and masonry, which are difficult to recycle, was minimized.
The “greenest” components of the redevelopment were discussed above and include:
1) green and sustainable environmental response action designs that minimized resource usage, greenhouse gas emissions, and public exposure risks;
2) construction operating procedures that reduced fossil fuel usage and engine exhaust emissions, and
3) the pending installation of wind power systems to provide electricity to the plant.