Clean-up planned at Horton farm 2013.11.06

A discussion at the Oct. 28 Morenci city council meeting led to a response that filtered down from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Lenawee County Emergency Management director. The inquiry indicated that clean-up action was already planned.

Following the report of possible contamination at the former Horton Orchard property east of Morenci, someone placed a call to the federal Environmental Protection Agency hotline.

According to the Lenawee County emergency director Curtis Parsons, the EPA Oct. 29 received a report of toxic and hazardous materials with the possibility of ground contamination at 9395 Morenci Rd. where an orchard business was once in operation. The report was passed down to the state emergency director at the Michigan State Police who in turn contacted Parsons at the county level.

Curtis called Morenci Chief of Police Larry Weeks and learned of the allegations made at the city council meeting by councilor Ron Apger. Parsons spoke with Apger and obtained photos that he said were taken at the scene.

Parsons determined there was cause for concern and he contacted the district office of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in Jackson. A DEQ representative spoke with property owner Kathleen Horton and was told that about three weeks earlier she took the initiative to make arrangements with an environmental firm to have the material removed. The photographs showed evidence of pesticides and insecticides used in orchard work, Parsons said.

The DEQ will check to see if the clean-up company is properly equipped.

"The DEQ will take a position of oversight to see if the work is done in a legitimate and safe fashion," Parsons said.

Clean-up work was expected to begin this week.

No agency has visited the site, Parsons said. Parsons based his decision on a verbal description and photographs provided by Apger, and the DEQ decision was based on Parson's report.

At the Oct. 28 meeting, Apger told council members that he was invited to the property to examine the material and he determined it was a hazard. Because the city has an option to buy the property, Apger is concerned that the purchase could be a liability to the city.