In this Property Rights Network video, the sixth in a series, two Michigan contractors discuss how their lives were turned upside down when the city of Menominee decided to renovate and expand Spies Athletic Field with federal grant funding. From the beginning, the project raised concerns among many local residents and business owners. Federal funds could not be released until a phase one environmental assessment was conducted. U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, husband of the mayor of Menominee at the time, assured the EPA and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality that the site was clean.
But was it? In 2002, the city of Menominee sought bids from local contractors for field renovation. Joe Krygoski, a local contractor, subcontracted Dale Pape to examine the field prior to submitting a bid. Mr. Pape found several barrels of toxic paint sludge on the premises. In 2003, the EPA examined the site and expressed few concerns. But when Mr. Pape continued his inspection, he found that the entire area was used as a dumping ground for toxic paint sludge.
After this new information surfaced, both Krygoski and Pape were accused of dumping the toxic waste onto the property. In 2004, an EPA cleanup was ordered, and 600 tons of waste was removed. Although Krygoski and Pape were eventually cleared of charges, an anonymous tip to the DEQ asserted that the pair hid toxic waste similar to that found on Spies Field at a gravel pit site owned by Krygoski. The EPA and DEQ, with assistance from a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter, swarmed the site. In the end, no waste was found. But by this time, both men had endured public accusations from elected officials and costly attorneys’ fees.