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A settlement reached for part of River Rouge cleanup

An aerial view of the Ford River Rouge plant near Dearborn, Michigan, circa 1927.
Library of Congress
An aerial view of the Ford River Rouge plant near Dearborn, Michigan, circa 1927.

The U.S. government has agreed to pay $10.8 million for part of a cleanup at the River Rouge complex in Dearborn.

From the Detroit News:

The Dearborn automaker filed suit in May 2004 against the federal government in U.S. District Court in Detroit, arguing the government should pay a share of the costs of cleaning up the automaker's Rouge manufacturing complex that opened in 1917 stemming from military production from World War I. Late Friday, Ford filed the terms of two settlements over two properties at the site and adjacent to it. The settlements — called consent decrees — will be open to public comment. U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman will then consider whether to approve the deal. The settlements represent a small chunk of overall future estimated cleanup costs at the site. Ford said in a court filing that the minimum future cost to clean the site is $99 million.

It's no wonder there's pollution at the River Rouge complex, which was one of the largest industrial complexes in the world. Ford took raw materials, like iron ore, and turned them into automobiles on site. The complex initially turned out boats for the U.S. Navy in 1917.

The News reports that the 1,200-acre complex has "generated enormous amounts of waste" and "has been home to blast furnaces, steel mills, foundries, metal stamping facilities, an engine plant, a glass manufacturing plant, a tire plant and its own powerhouse."

Coal tar, which increases cancer risks, is one of the main pollutants on the site.

Here's an explanation of what coal tar is from Circle of Blue:

The carcinogenic compound is a by-product of manufactured gas plants that operated from the 1800s up to the 1950s. Manufactured gas plants burned coal to release its gaseous components, which were fed to pipelines that sent gas to homes and street lamps. Originally produced for illumination, since the gas burned a bright yellow color, the industry shifted to uses such as heating, cooking, refrigeration, and cooling with the advent of electric lighting.


But the matter of cleanup at the site is far from over as separate lawsuits and counter-lawsuits continue.

Mark Brush was the station's Digital Media Director. He succumbed to a year-long battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, in March 2018. He was 49 years old.