In 2006, Central City Park in Westland, Michigan was closed after testing revealed high levels of lead, methane and other contaminants. Owned by Wayne County (County), the 40-acre site was leased by the City of Westland and developed into a public park in 1978. Considered the jewel of the suburban Detroit community, residents frequented the park daily to use its various amenities.

The journey to closing began in 1999 when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was investigating old unlicensed landfills and asked the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to test the park site. The testing showed higher than acceptable levels of lead n soil throughout the site. Historical reviews revealed that from the mid-1940s to early 1970s, sand mining was conducted on the site. Municipal solid wastes were dumped in a portion of the mined area during the 1950s, and street sweepings, storm sewer sediments, and trees and brush from road rights-of-way were disposed in the reminder of the mined area by the County’s road commission. Evidence also revealed that the site had also been used for illegal and indiscriminate dumping.

Just before the park’s closing, SME was retained by the City to develop and implement an exposure mitigation strategy that would allow for reopening the park and bringing it back to life as soon as possible. SME first conducted a remedial investigation focusing on the contaminated soil, groundwater, and methane. As part of a multi-disciplined project team, we then conducted feasibility studies, designed remedial responses, and prepared bid plans and specifications for retention of a remediation contractor. During the construction of the remedial responses, we provided environmental and resident engineering services. Throughout the process, we interfaced and collaborated with state regulatory authorities and assisted in community outreach. We also assisted the project team in securing critical funding from Wayne County’s USEPA Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund Grant and prepared the necessary associated program documents.

Investigation results revealed two exposure pathways of concern: human direct contact with lead-impacted soil and fire and explosion risks posed by methane in soil gas. The contaminated soil was found in all areas of the park, and methane migration mapping revealed risks to municipal buildings north of the park and all future structures in the park. SME worked with MDEQ to focus on two exposure pathways of concern: 1) human direct contact with lead-impacted soil and, 2) fire and explosion risks posed by methane in soil gas. SME prepared a Remedial Action Plan to mitigate the human health risks associated with these pathways. The plan called for the park to be divided into two areas based on proposed uses: a 12-acre recreation area redeveloped with new soccer fields and other recreational amenities; and a restricted-access area that would remain undeveloped and be securely fenced to prevent public access.

To stop direct contact with the contaminated soil, SME used a cost-effective geotextile membrane throughout the park, capped with a 12-inch layer of clean soil. To control methane migration, a passive ventilation trench was installed along the park’s northern boundary to aid in its dissipation; and vapor barriers and passive ventilation systems were installed under all new buildings. Monitoring along the park’s northern and eastern boundaries continues today. For stormwater management, the project team incorporated aesthetically-pleasing bioswales, ponds, and other drainage features into the design.

Officially reopened in 2012, the new, redesigned and safe-to-use park includes soccer fields, walking paths, play areas, and a new multiuse building constructed in 2014 that is home to the City’s farmers market. Special care was taken to enhance the existing adjacent Tattan Park and to create connectivity within the entire park.

“City of Westland residents have always considered Central City Park the crown jewel of the city’s park system and this project proudly restores that past glory.”
William R. Wild
Mayor, City of Westland