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EPA Spends $1 Million to Demolish Dangerous Michigan Paper Mill

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it has begun a $1 million asbestos removal project aimed at removing friable asbestos materials from the former Rock-Tenn Paper Mill in Otsego, Michigan. However, the building has been deemed structurally unsafe, so the EPA has decided to demolish the entire property.

Owned by Allegan County, the mill, which sits on a 48-acre property, closed back in 2004. Just two years later, Anthony M. Davis of Canton, Michigan purchased the property. By 2011, after Davis’ company, Cogswell Property LLC, failed to pay overdue property taxes, the property entered foreclosure. Asbestos was discovered during the foreclosure process, prompting the EPA to prosecute.

In 2013, after pleading guilty to one count of violating the Clean Air Act, Davis was sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to pay $168,029.59 in restitution to the EPA. Davis lost his case because he failed to obtain a thorough asbestos inspection for the mill’s powerhouse building before stripping out pipes that he knew were wrapped in insulation containing asbestos.

For the demolition, licensed asbestos contractors will use a crane with a claw mounted to it “to take the building apart while misting devices knock down the dust,” explained EPA Environmental Engineer Paul Ruesch. Asbestos materials and debris will be removed from the site and “disposed of in a special way,” he said.

Before the demolition, a $30,000 board-up of the property prevented asbestos drift. And in 2012, the EPA removed roughly 200 drums and bins of toxic waste from the site. During the current demolition project, perimeter air monitoring will be in place to ensure asbestos is not drifting from the site.

Funding for the project comes from EPA funds for Superfund sites. The agency says it will attempt to recover the costs from responsible parties. The country expects the entire project to take 60 days to complete. The land is for sale now and will be available for purchase for a “minimal investment,” explained Allegan County Executive Director of Services Dan Wedge. “The demolition is meant to help bring more redevelopment opportunities,” he said.


What to Do if You Discover Asbestos in the Workplace

If you discover asbestos in the workplace, don’t touch it. Leave the area immediately, post a warning sign to ensure that no one else enters the area, and report the discovery to whomever is in charge. Even small amounts of asbestos can cause mesothelioma, so if you think you may have been exposed, the next step is to see your doctor.

Your doctor can refer you to a specialist who will set up a monitoring plan that could help detect mesothelioma sooner. Although there is no cure for the disease, early detection could lead to better treatment options and outcomes. See your doctor to assess your risk today.



Devereaux, Brad. “EPA to spend nearly $1M to demolish building containing asbestos in Otsego.” MLive Media Group, 22 Feb. 2019. Web. 08 Apr. 2019.

Krafcik, Michael. “EPA to begin asbestos removal from Rock-Tenn Paper Mill in Otsego.” WWMT West Michigan. Sinclair Broadcast Group, 02 Apr. 2019. Web. 08 Apr. 2019.