Superfund Site: AIRCRAFT COMPONENTS (D & L SALES), BENTON HARBOR, MI
Superfund Site Profile
The 17-acre Aircraft Components, Inc. (D&L Sales) site is located in Benton Harbor in Berrien County, Michigan. Several manufacturing facilities operated on site from the 1910s to the 1950s. The site began to be used for a variety of manufacturing purposes, including metal furniture manufacturing and printing, in 1914. By 1957, activities had expanded to include offices, storage, packing and shipping, electroplating, machining, forging and welding, lacquer spraying, spray painting, printing, type-setting, binding, color plating, and lithographing. Over the course of the industrial use of the property, fill materials were used to alter the existing riverbank and to build up former low-lying portions of the Site. Evidence of historical debris was present along the riverbank and on the floor of the river. In addition to these wastes, the northern portion of the Site along the base of the bluff has historically received wastes resulting from unrestricted dumping of refuse from Ridgeway Road. Although the dumping from Ridgeway Road is noteworthy, most of the materials were of a household nature (e.g., paint cans, used tires, and appliances) and are unlikely to represent a major source of contamination.
The other type of contamination at the Aircraft Components Site was radiological contamination. Radiological contamination at the Site was due to the use of on-Site structures for warehousing luminescent aircraft gauges. During storage of the gauges, and as the gauges deteriorated over time, radium-226 from the painted dials was released and dispersed throughout the buildings. Use of the Site as a warehouse for radium-painted gauges began in 1972 when a new Site owner, Aircraft Components Inc., transferred a number of surplus aircraft components from the Southwest Michigan Regional Airport in Benton Harbor, Michigan, to the Site. Aircraft Components Inc. was in the business of acquiring World War II-era aircraft components as military surplus from the U.S. Department of Defense and reselling them as part of a mail-order distribution service. Each radio-luminescent aircraft gauge was estimated to contain a radium activity of about 10 to 15 microcuries, which is about 100 times that allowed for a radio-luminescent timepiece containing radium.