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Nessel: Detroit demolition contractor charged city over $1M for contaminated dirt he got for free

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

A contractor who did demolition work in Detroit is now accused of billing more than $1 million for contaminated dirt—that he allegedly got for free.

According to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a former employee of demolition contractor Den-Man billed the Detroit Land Bank Authority for backfill dirt at demolition sites.

The problem: David MacDonald allegedly got the dirt at no cost, and it didn’t meet environmental standards required by contract.

MacDonald now faces multiple charges, including conducting a criminal enterprise. He could not be reached for comment.

The demolitions in question were paid for with federal funds. In February, the Detroit Land Bank agreed to pay the federal government $1.5 million tosettle claimsthat it failed to properly monitor invoices. The investigation was completed by the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP).

“The DLBA supports any action that protects the integrity of Detroit’s blight elimination programs,” the agency said in a statement. “We will continue to participate fully in any effort to ensure appropriate use of taxpayer dollars. The DLBA’s Hardest Hit Fund Demolition program successfully closed in July 2021, with full reimbursement from MSHDA of $265 million dollars in federal grants.”

The Land Bank says Den-Man successfully remediated the demolition sites with contaminated dirt last year. In 2021, the city took over direct responsibility for demolitions from the Land Bank.

*Editor's note: An earlier version of this story contained a picture with equipment of another demolition contractor unrelated to the one mentioned in this story. We regret the oversight.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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