GM plans to work with city, DNR to clean up Rock River

GM plans to work with city, DNR to clean up Rock River

General Motors officials said they are working with the city of Janesville and the state Department of Natural Resources after a study of the Rock River near the former auto plant revealed results consistent with a city study from January that turned up pollution on the site.

The environmental report provided by General Motors to the city confirms previous reports of high levels of lead, mercury and other pollutants related to oil and grease.

Dan Flores, a spokesperson for General Motors, said the report did not come with any surprises.

“Nothing surprised us. Going forward, GM will be sitting down with the city of Janesville and the Wisconsin DNR to come up with a remediation plan. Right now, we don’t know what those steps are,” Flores said.

In March, GM took nine sediment samples from the southern half of the Rock River near the former auto plant across from Monterey Park in the same area where city officials tested last year.

The report, containing over 35,000 pages of environmental data, including 700 pages focused on the contaminated sediment, showed high levels of various metals. The contamination poses no threat to public health; however, the pollution could harm organisms living near the sediment, officials said.

“There’s going to be some of that, that falls on GM from their responsibility, but there could be other former manufacturers or businesses that were in that area or perhaps dumping things in the ground that washed through the storm water system into the river. It’s still too early to kind of nail that all down,” Janesville City Manager Mark Freitag said.

Freitag said it’s too early to determine all parties that may be responsible for the contamination.

According to the DNR, the source of contamination comes from storm water outfall, which serviced the GM site. The report has put a hold on plans to either remove or fix the nearby Monterey Dam.

“As long as it’s (the dam) stationary, I think that’s manageable. The concern is if it (sediment) gets stirred up and passed down the river. I think that’s the major concern,” Freitag said.

The DNR previously required the city to either repair or remove the dam. If the sediment is not cleared before working on the dam, the DNR said the contamination could pose a risk to public health.

GM officials said they are committed to working together to fix the problem.

“We’ve been there for decades. We want to do the right thing for the community and we are committed to doing that,” Flores said.

Flores said the report will not affect efforts to sell the GM plant site. GM and the city will meet next week to discuss the situation.

In the report, contamination was also found on the plant site. Flores said their next step is to sit down with DNR officials to evaluate the next course of action.

“Overall our plan is still to move forward, to sell the property and hopefully the purchaser redevelops it and puts it back to use,” Flores said.

The city, DNR and GM officials plan to meet later this summer to discuss a remediation plan. DNR officials said they are still evaluating possible risks to land and water.