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Detroit Land Bank reaches deal with firm over environmental violations

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Detroit – A contractor fined for violating the rules of Detroit’s federal government-funded demolition program has notified the city that he intends to fix the issues.

Chicago-based McDonagh Demolition was hired by the Detroit Land Bank Authority last week to replace the ground at 16 demolition sites. This resulted in tests that found that dirt used to fill holes once houses stood in exceeded acceptable levels of mercury, chrome and lead.

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The company told The News in a statement last week that it was “ready to take appropriate action” despite the procurement of the land for the sites from a “frequently used” city supplier two years ago.

The company used the soil to fill and level land after houses were demolished.

“We have received written confirmation from McDonagh that they will take the necessary corrective action,” the land bank said in an email. “In addition, the administrative work at the end of the process (e.g. obtaining permits for disposal) has already started so progress is being made.”

McDonagh has April 2nd to remove and replace the floor. A lawyer for the company could not be reached immediately on Thursday to get an estimate of when the work is expected to be completed.

Landbank officials learned last summer that McDonagh had failed to submit bills for a handful of demolished homes. The lack of paperwork triggered an internal investigation into the source and safety of the soil used.

The Detroit federal program has been controversial in the past. In recent years, some city, state and convention lawmakers have raised concerns about the potential for pollution in dirt used at urban demolition sites following a series of high profile violations against contractors, including McDonagh.

The city is withholding $ 223,000 in federal demolition funds earmarked for McDonagh until corrective work is done at the company’s own expense. If McDonagh had refused to make the fixes, a portion of that federal dollar would have been used to hire another company to do the work.

In consultation with the state supervisory authorities, the Landbank has determined that the dirt in question “does not pose a short-term health risk”.

An assessment of the McDonagh inventory of 89 demolition sites found that dirt exceeded acceptable limits in eight of them and the results from eight other sites were inconclusive.

The problems are the most recent for McDonagh, whose projects in Detroit were first suspended in February 2019 because of allegations they broke hole-filling rules at a handful of other locations.

After that incident, the company was banned from participating in additional demolition projects in Detroit that were paid for in US dollars for the federal heaviest hit.

The fixes for the McDonagh locations are delaying the final refunds coming to Detroit as part of the federal program. The city has until the end of June to close the program, and land bank officials said they remain confident that the deadline will be met.

The initiative, jointly overseen by the Landbank and the Detroit Building Authority, destroyed 15,084 demolished homes in the city as of spring 2014 with $ 265 million in federal Hardest Hit funding.

The city’s federal demolition program was reviewed in autumn 2015 in terms of tendering practices and rising costs. It was the focus of city, state and federal exams and investigations. In the spring of 2019, two men involved in the program pleaded guilty to manipulating offers and accepting bribes totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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Dusty Kennedy