The abandoned paper mill site in Parchment, which still has dozens of buildings sitting in decay, has been an eyesore in the community for decades. While the property has not officially been linked to the recent water contamination of PFAS that has affected over 3,100 residents in the area, many residents believe it is only a matter of time before it is confirmed. The DEQ has reportedly been sampling water from the dump site used when the mill was operating.

So where is the owner of the property in all of this? Unless they have been living under a rock, you'd think they'd have some kind of statement or reaction regarding the water emergency in proximity to property they own. Property that is suspect, at the very least, to the water emergency and that has been grossly neglected in the city for ages leading to fires, vandalism and illegal entry inside the unstable structures.

(Brandon James/TSM)

A Parchment area resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, shared their thoughts with me on the situation and wants to know, along with much of the Parchment community, why the current owners of the site have been completely absent, I'd even argue truant, amidst the worst crisis the city of Parchment has ever dealt with.

When I worked for an environmental engineering firm, we used to do "due diligence " research because when a company buys a polluted property, they assume all the legal liability of owning that pollution so they pay people to know what they're getting. Well this River Reach Partners LLC out of Colorado bought the property thinking they were going to flip it into residential and commercial properties, but when the recession hit in 2008, that all stopped.

 

Now they sit in Colorado as their property pollutes, and has polluted for years both through ground water and when the river floods the residual water in those lagoons just glows down river, and nothing is ever done about it. Imagine your next door neighbor owns a vacation property they never occupy but is destroying your home because you have to live next to it.

 

So where is this company? You call the number on their website and it's disconnected. Where is our attorney general to drag their ass from Colorado back to Michigan to find out what they're going to do to clean up THEIR property. The paper companies started the pollution but now they own it when they purchased the property. They're not just gonna spend millions to clean it up out of the goodness of their hearts. A judge will have to force them to do it.

When I called the phone number for River Reach Development listed on a website called Frontier Renewal, based out of Denver, Colorado, it says "the number you have reached is not in service" and I was unable to leave a message. An email address, info@FrontierRenewal.com is also listed. An email sent has not been responded to. Daniel Jacobs is listed as the President and CEO of Frontier Environmental Management and the River Reach Development development is one of five projects listed on the website. The newest information listed on the page is several years old.

It should be noted that the current property owners had nothing to do with any operations or disposal at that property. It was purchased after the mill had ceased operations for the purpose of redevelopment projects that have not come to fruition.

(Brandon James/TSM)

According to WWMT from a March 2016 article, River Reach spent $2 million demolishing a third of the abandoned structures at the site to make it ready for redevelopment. At that time, Parchment officials said it would cost up to $10 million to get rid of the rest of it. They also said at the time that there were two options: either come up with enough funding to help the mill owners afford the demolition or have Parchment tax payers pay for the rest of the mill to be torn down. Due to recent events, the latter option would seem very unlikely to get any support from residents.

I attempted to reach the offices of U.S. Representative Fred Upton and State Senator Margaret O-Brien, who represent the area in their respective positions, to ask for an official statement related to the owner of the mill property and the Parchment water crisis and my calls were not returned.

Brandon James/TSM
Brandon James/TSM