City announces solution to address questions about fill material used at some demo sites in 2017-18

  • Fill material to be removed and replaced at 87 sites where testing showed contract standards violations
  • Testing prompted by contractor’s failure to document origin of fill material
  • City will pay all upfront costs and pursue reimbursement from contractor

The City of Detroit announced today it is taking action to address concerns raised last year regarding the failure of Den-Man Contractors, Inc, to document the origin of fill material used at 200 residential demolitions in 2017-18.

After a year of rigorous sampling and testing of 147 of the sites by independent environmental experts, coordinated by the Environmental Affairs Section of the City’s Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department, the City is able to move forward with a solution. At 87 of the sites, testing found levels of arsenic, lead or other substances above statewide naturally occurring levels and in exceedance of contractual standards for direct contact. To remedy this, the City plans to remove existing fill material at the sites and replace that fill with appropriate material from a verified approved source.  Under the City’s demolition program, fill material must be provided from an approved source and must be properly documented to be used at any demolition site to ensure that the City’s standards are met. 

Planning for the remediation work will begin immediately and work is expected to begin the first week of August and completed in November.  Work is expected to begin first at 74 lots that currently are City or Detroit Land Bank Authority owned.  At the same time, private owners of the remaining 13 lots will be offered the opportunity to grant the City permission to remove and replace the fill material on their lot at no cost to the owner.  Work on those lots will begin as soon as approval is granted by the owner. 

“From the very beginning we said we were going to follow the science in dealing with this issue and today’s actions fulfill that commitment. By taking these measures, we will be able to put to rest any concerns about the quality of the fill at these locations,” said Tim Devine, who is serving as Counsel for the City and Detroit Land Bank on this matter.

All excavated sites will be restored according to City standards, including grass seed and straw. Precautionary fencing installed last year will be removed from all sites where testing determined the material to be within contractual standards for direct contact.

The City investigates environmental concerns and pursues mitigation based on scientifically-appropriate testing and expert review.  Since 2014, the City has demolished over 25,000 dangerous, blighted houses, improving public health and safety for neighbors.  Of those 25,000 demolitions, the City has had reason to remove and replace the fill material at 50 sites where fill materials did not comply with applicable contract standards. With today’s announcement that number will be 137, depending on the individual decision of affected private lot owners.  

Residents impacted by the remediation at the 87 sites will be notified of next steps prior to the start of work. The City will take action to hold Den-Man accountable for testing and remediation costs. An additional 24 of the 200 Den-Man sites are still under review, pending additional testing and final review.