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Health department evacuates downtown building

June 16, 2016
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A commercial building in the downtown area has been evacuated, and the feds have ordered a cleanup of the facility due to high levels of a carcinogen.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week ordered Trex Properties LLC to clean up indoor air contamination at a former solvent reclamation facility in Grand Rapids, at 312 Ellsworth Ave. SW.

Four employees of Big Event Studios, a photography studio operating at the building, were evacuated by the Kent County Health Department on Tuesday due to the presence of trichloroethylene, or TCE.

The site

Detrex Corporation previously operated at the location until the facility’s closure in the 1990s.

The EPA said the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, or MDEQ, has overseen a voluntary, ongoing corrective-action cleanup since its closure.

The EPA became involved at the site on June 9 after the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services requested assistance in assessing a potential TCE vapor intrusion.

Initial samples taken by the MDEQ showed TCE levels up to 200 times above the state health screening level. The EPA collected indoor air samples at four nearby commercial properties, where all results showed indoor air levels below the state health screening level.

Trex Properties has agreed to begin the cleanup process this week and will complete additional work, including assessments of the surrounding area.

TCE

Trichloroethylene is a non-flammable, colorless liquid mainly used as a solvent to remove grease from metal parts.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry said information from the International Agency for Research on Cancer shows there is evidence that TCE can cause kidney cancer and limited evidence it may cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma and liver cancer, as well as various tumors in animals.

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