All 54 families living near Michigan's worst toxic waste...

By LANI WIEGAND   |   April 21, 1983

SWARTZ CREEK, Mich. -- All 54 families living near Michigan's worst toxic waste dump were given until midnight to be out of their homes so a three-week cleanup could begin at dawn Friday.

Many families had already gone to temporary shelters by mid-morning today. They received their expense checks from state officials Wednesday at the Gaines Township Hall.

State police will conduct a door-to-door search tonight to make sure everybody is gone from the neighborhood bordering the bankrupt Berlin & Farro Liquid Waste Incineration Co. dump.

'We will confirm that no one is in their home and then set up roadblocks. It will be secured then,' said Warren Hutchinson of the Department of Natural Resources, which is supervising the cleanup.

Hutchinson said the DNR is ready to start excavacation at Berlin & Farro at dawn Friday. He said 35 to 75 truckloads daily will carry toxic wastes to a safe disposal site in southern Ohio.

The canvass-covered trucks will take an undisclosed main route to the Cincinnati area, he said.

Mac's Market -- a little store about a half-mile from the dump site and the only business being evacuated -- donated $6,200 worth of perishables to a local food drive before it closed down for the duration of the cleanup.

The long-awaited evacuation process began Wednesday. In the only serious incident related to the evacuation, which will cost the state $150,000, the father of one of the dump's owners was arrested for pulling a gun on a state trooper.

Clifton Berlin, the father of Berlin & Farro dump owner Charles Berlin, was charged Wednesday with felonious assault for pointing a gun at the trooper who came to his home near the contaminated site to inform him of the court-ordered evacuation.

He was released on a personal recognizance bond.

'Mr. Berlin apparently didn't feel the need to cooperate,' said state police Lt. Gary Sower.

Charles Berlin, 44, whom authorities have not been able to locate, declared bankruptcy at the 10-year-old rural toxic waste facility in 1980 when the state tried to force him to clean it up.

His departure left the state responsible for dangerous wastes ranging from cyanide to the toxic pesticide C-56.

Berlin & Farro rates No. 15 on the national 'Superfund' waste cleanup list. Complete restoration of the site could cost $5 million.

A Flint hotel -- the Sheraton Inn -- announced it will offer reduced room rates for Berlin & Farro evacuees and a free breakfast for families who decide to stay there.

A Genesee County judge ordered the immediate removal of 8,500 cubic yards of contaminated sludge from the dump located in a semi-rural south of Swartz Creek, a 5,000-resident town 10 miles west of Flint. The waste will be transported to a site in Williamsburg, Ohio.

Removal of the sludge will not end contamination at Berlin & Farro. An estimated 20,000 to 40,000 drums of unidentified waste remain buried in a landfill on the western end of the site.

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