Frequent Questions & Answers

Q: Did the creation of East Park and the Bay Harbor development cause the environmental problems?

A: Absolutely not. East Park and Bay Harbor were developed as a brownfield project. The whole idea was to take a site with known environmental problems and turn it into something safe and productive for the community. East Park and Bay Harbor were built on the site of an abandoned cement plant and limestone quarry. About 2.5 million cubic yards of cement kiln dust, a by-product of cement production, was left in piles around the site by the former owner. Before the development, the dust piles were open to the weather. Wind freely blew the dust around while rain and melted snow worked its way through the piles. In the process, water absorbed chemicals and flowed freely into the Little Traverse Bay. As part of the brownfield redevelopment, the dust piles were consolidated and covered by rocks and soil to form East Park and part of the Bay Harbor golf course. A water collection system was installed in Bay Harbor to gather the water working its way through one area of the largest pile. When the initial work was completed, the project substantially improved environmental conditions at the 1,200-acre site and turned it into two public parks and a beautiful resort that provides significant economic benefit to Michigan.

Q: Did CMS Land Company and Bay Harbor cut corners during the development process?

A: No. The work on East Park and Bay Harbor began in 1994 following an environmental study and reclamation plan that were fully reviewed and approved by the state. That work was conducted under a brownfield redevelopment agreement that recognized the long-standing environmental issues on the site. Under that agreement, a site once described as an industrial “moonscape” was transformed into an award-winning community and resort that draws visitors from around the world. Bay Harbor is recognized nationally as a success story and has received many awards for its success in turning a brownfield site into a productive use. The Bay Harbor community is responsible for about 1,400 jobs and has contributed more than $180 million in property taxes since its inception.

Q: How safe is the water around the site?

A: The work done at East Park and the Bay Harbor development has been very successful. Water monitoring results verify that pH readings are routinely below the action level of 9.0. These results are a dramatic contrast to the dozens of elevated pH reading that were recorded in 2005, before CMS Land began its work at the site. All health advisories have been removed from both East Park and Bay Harbor.

Testing conducted under the oversight of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave Bay Harbor Lake a clean bill of health.

Q: How much profit did CMS Land make on its investment in Bay Harbor?

A: CMS Land sold its interests in the Bay Harbor development in 2002, but retained responsibility for certain environmental matters at the site. At the time of the sale, the company estimated that its participation resulted in a total net gain of $7.8 million. Since 2004, CMS Land has spent about $180 million on environmental work at East Park and the Bay Harbor development and estimates it will need to spend about $250 million total.

Q: Is there a big problem with mercury in the water coming out of East Park and the Bay Harbor development?

A: While there is a trace amount of mercury in the water coming from the piles, the system installed by CMS Land is collecting an average of 150,000 gallons a day. The mercury levels in that water are less than a tenth of what the government considers safe for drinking water.

Utilizing data collected from monitoring wells, CMS Land estimates that the installed remedies will reduce the trace amount of mercury making its way to the lake by about 80 percent, to roughly the equivalent of two nickels a year.

Q: What does CMS Land do with the water that it collects?

A: The water collected was previously treated and then trucked to a licensed disposal site. CMS Land was spending about $6 million a year to collect, treat and dispose of this water. Trucking the treated water offsite was not a cost-effective, long-term solution, because it increases truck traffic on Northwest Michigan roads. CMS Land has since invested more than $6 million to construct two state of the art facilities to treat and release the water locally.

Q: Is it true that CMS Land is increasing my electricity and natural gas bills at Consumers Energy to pay for this project?

A: No. This project has no connection to or impact on Consumers Energy’s gas or electric bills. This project is entirely separate from Consumers Energy. CMS Energy shareholders bear the cost for this project.