FLINT, MI – A former contractor that excavated water service lines in Flint has been cited by the state for not having a soil erosion and sediment control permit for property it owns in the city, a site that was used to dump construction waste.
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy notified W.T. Stevens Construction Inc. of its violation of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act for its property in the area of Premier Street and East Mott Avenue, just east of Horton Avenue, in a Sept. 30 letter. That’s near I-475 and East Pierson Road on the city’s north side.
The company was awarded contracts worth more than $27 million to replace lead and galvanized water service lines in Flint starting in 2017.
For most of this year, the company and the city have been locked in disagreements over the condition of the former dump site, and in August and September, the Genesee County Drain Commissioner’s Office also issued notices of violation for the company’s property, alleging it failed to obtain a soil erosion and sediment control permit and to adequately install and maintain erosion and sediment control on site.
Permits to prevent soil erosion are needed to prevent dirt that was dumped on the property from washing into streets and storm sewers. Neighbors have also complained about dust and truck traffic to the property, which is zoned as residential.
Rhonda Grayer, president of W.T. Stevens, declined to comment on the violations and the notice from the state says the company has until Oct. 30 to comply.
Scott Dean, a spokesman for EGLE, said in an email to MLive-The Flint Journal that the state’s goal is to work with companies to achieve compliance, if possible.
Extensions to complete a requirement can be granted, and if the company remains in noncompliance, the agency follows an enforcement process that can include a second notice of violation.
“In the event W.T. Stevens refused to work with EGLE and the site continued to be in noncompliance … the site would be referred to EGLE’s enforcement unit for escalated enforcement and fines could potentially be assessed,” Dean said. “Having said that, from conversations with W. T. Stevens, we have every reason to believe they are willing to take the necessary actions to achieve compliance.”
Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley said the most recent developments at the W.T. Stevens properties are more evidence the company hasn’t fully restored the land after having used it to dump tens of thousands of cubic feet of construction waste — large mounds of dirt, concrete and excavation spoils.
Spoils are defined by the state as “excavated materials consisting of topsoil or subsoils that have been removed and temporarily stored during construction activity,” like the dirt removed during pipe excavations by W.T. Stevens and other contractors for the city.
Before starting service line work, each city contractor had to provide Flint with a plan detailing where they would dispose of the spoils. In W.T. Stevens’ March 19, 2019 material disposal plan, the company said it wouldn’t dump its spoils in Flint.
“What we want to do (is have) them remediate the property and not dump commercial spoils and put it into a poor Black community,” Neeley said.
“If it had been a white contractor we would have had a lot of outrage down every sector of this community,” the mayor said.
Neeley said W.T. Stevens, a minority-owned business that is no longer in the service line program, has made progress cleaning up its property, but on Sept. 18, City Administrator Clyde Edwards wrote to the company, claiming it was still in violation of its previous contracts with the city. The letter demanded the company follow the agreements it made with the city and follow local, state and federal regulations to prevent soil and sediment from leaving the site.
Edwards letter said the contractor must clean up the property, sample soil to show it has not been contaminated by dumping, plant grass and remove a gate blocking access to a public street. It also said the W.T. Stevens is required to install catch basins, obtain a soil erosion permit, and to restore the drainage system by Nov. 1.
Neeley notified the Flint City Council last month that he was vetoing a resolution that called for the city to release funds to W.T. Stevens – retainage money the city says it is withholding from two of the company’s contracts with the city.
The mayor said the council “improperly stepped into the shoes of the executive branch” in approving the resolution, which he said is not binding on his administration.
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