SME assisted Ventower Industries, a fabricator and supplier of utility-scale wind turbine towers, with the development of a new 115,000 sf, $25 million manufacturing facility at the Port of Monroe in Monroe, Michigan. The site, part of a larger industrial waste landfill of primarily foundry sand, coal tar and fly ash, was located in a former manufacturing area of paper mills and automotive factories. The landfill operated from the 1940s into the 1970s to reclaim Lake Erie coastal wetlands, and the cleanup posed a number of environmental and engineering challenges due to the types of fill and former uses at the site.

The project got underway at a time when project financing was becoming increasingly difficult due to economic conditions, so securing all available grants and loans was essential to make the project happen. SME assisted Ventower in obtaining $5.5 million in state and federal brownfield financing for the project, including a state brownfield grant and loan, an EPA brownfield loan, state brownfield tax credits, brownfield Tax Increment Financing, and assisted in securing a Small Business Administration Section 504 Loan.

SME conducted extensive environmental and geotechnical assessments which revealed contaminated, unconsolidated fill; assorted debris; contaminated shallow groundwater and leachate; and other significant issues which affected constructability, including the inability to use traditional deep foundation construction techniques. The Phase I, Phase II and safe use environmental site assessments conducted by SME’s Environmental Team supported the new owners’ environmental due diligence and cleanup liability mitigation and identified human direct contact risks, vapor intrusion threats, and groundwater protection issues on the property.

The Environmental Team developed environmental response action designs, plans and specifications for 38 acres of direct contact barriers and vapor intrusion mitigation systems under the new buildings that reduced the potential for exposure risk for the plant’s future workers. The direct contact barriers and stormwater detention pond liners reduced the infiltration of water through the landfill, leaving the site in a better condition than before the project started.

The presence of contaminated groundwater made it impossible to penetrate and compromise the underlying clay layer to set conventional driven piles on the bedrock as would be typical for such poor conditions. SME’s Geotechnical Engineering Team developed a soil stabilization and foundation system utilizing controlled modulus columns as a solution to constructing over the poor landfill soils. This approach allowed the foundation to support the heavy manufacturing and product loads without having to penetrate the underlying native clay, thus protecting the regional aquifer from contamination by the shallow landfill leachate.

Once construction began, our Construction Quality Assurance Team monitored the construction and verified that critical environmental and structural elements were built according to specifications. Field engineers tested the foundation support system for the building and high-load raw material delivery and storage areas; the direct contact barriers and aggregate driveways and product storage areas; the vapor intrusion mitigation system; and stormwater detention pond liners.

SME also incorporated green remediation and redevelopment techniques into the project. The exposure mitigation and foundation support system designs were selected so no excess contaminated fill was generated or disposed off-site, reducing resource consumption, fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions, while enhancing public safety. Fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions were further reduced by minimizing commuting, staging equipment on-site, and reducing engine idling.

The project’s success is the direct result of a committed group of parties working together in a public-private partnership including the City and Port of Monroe, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Downriver Community Conference, and Ventower.