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Congressional District # 06


EPA ID# MID005107222
Last Updated: November, 2014

Site Description

The Bendix Superfund Site is located approximately four miles south of the city of St. Joseph at 3737 Red Arrow Highway in Berrien County, Michigan.  The contamination emanates from two source areas located within the boundaries of the former Bendix Automotive plant, now owned and operated by Bosch Braking Systems.  During the plant’s history, the chlorinated solvents tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE) were discharged to unlined lagoons, allowing the contaminants to infiltrate vertically and migrate laterally from the source areas.  These source areas are approximately one-half mile east of the Lake Michigan shore and one-quarter mile west of Hickory Creek.  The topography at the site is generally flat and covered by buildings and pavement, but to the west the land surface slopes toward Lake Michigan, and to the east it slopes toward Hickory Creek, creating a hydrogeological divide.  This divide causes the groundwater from the source areas to flow either west to Lake Michigan or east to Hickory Creek.  The surface geology and water table aquifer are composed of permeable, course-grained, glacial deposits that allow rapid infiltration and groundwater flow.  There are some 750 homes within three miles of the site, but all residences within the affected area receive water from the city of St. Joseph’s municipal water system.  

Site Responsibility

This site is being addressed through federal, state and Potentially Responsible Party (PRP) actions.

Threats and Contaminants

Groundwater is contaminated with various Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).  People may be at risk if they consume or come into direct contact with contaminated groundwater; however, groundwater is not currently used as a source of drinking water.

Cleanup Progress

A Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) was completed under an Administrative Order on Consent (AOC), signed in February 1989. Studies conducted by Bendix, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) Kerr Laboratory, and the University of Michigan concluded that natural attenuation was occurring and effectively limiting the discharge of contaminants into Lake Michigan and Hickory Creek.  A Record of Decision (ROD) was signed on September 30, 1997, selecting Monitored Natural Attenuation (MNA) as the Remedial Action (RA) for both the western and eastern plumes, with Soil Vapor Extraction (SVE) added for the eastern plume.  The SVE system has been operating since 1999, and through 2009 has eliminated approximately 3,000 pounds of dissolved industrial compounds.  VOC concentrations in the soils have decreased 98%.

The 2004 Five-Year Review determined that natural attenuation was not fulfilling the objectives stipulated by current MNA guidance, probably because control measures were never implemented for the source of the western plume.  The discharge of cis-1,2 DCE and vinyl chloride into near-shore Lake Michigan sediments demonstrates that natural attenuation is not progressing to the extent anticipated in the ROD; if natural attenuation alone was effective, a clear trend of decreasing contaminant mass and/or concentration over time would be evident at appropriate monitoring points.  In September 2007 U.S. EPA sent Bosch a Notice of Exceedance (NOE) because contaminant concentrations in designated wells were above compliance criteria. This NOE required the development of a Contingent Remedial Action plan, as provided for in the ROD and the consent decree.

In responce to the NOE, Bosch installed a groundwater extraction and treatment system to control the source of the western plume.  An Explanation of Significant Differences (ESD) that presents EPA’s rationale for approving the installation of a groundwater extraction and treatment system to reduce contaminant loading from the source of the western plume and enhance the effectiveness of natural attenuation was signed on February 19, 2009.   The groundwater extraction and treatment system went into regular operation in August 2009.  Three extractions wells are located in the parking lot north of the Bosch facility.  Extracted groundwater is being run through an air stripper to remove VOCs, and the treated water (meeting all applicable state and federal requirements) is then discharged to Hickory Creek.  The gasses from the treated groundwater are processed by a catalytic oxidation system to reduce volatiles to State air quality standards before they are released to the atmosphere. 

System performance is being evaluated on reductions in contaminant concentrations from baseline conditions established immediately prior to system startup.  Data is collected during system operation to characterize process streams and evaluate the performance of the source mass reduction system.  Process data is used to calculate system operating efficiencies and support regulatory decision making.  Target reductions are a 75 percent reduction in groundwater influent concentrations measured at the extraction wells, and a 60 to 75 percent reduction in contaminant concentration leaving the Bosch property, measured at monitoring wells selected for this purpose.  Current estimates indicate the system will run 12 to 14 years prior to shutdown, and potentially remove 36,000 to 46,000 pounds of source material.  When target reductions are reached, Bosch may petition U.S. EPA for authorization to shut the system down. 

The most recent Five-Year Review was conducted in 2014.  This review concluded that The Bendix Site remedy currently protects human health and the environment in the short term. Contact with contaminated soil is prevented by asphalt pavement; a Soil Vapor Extraction (SVE) system removes contamination from the source of the eastern plume; a groundwater extraction and treatment system reduces contaminant loading from the source of the western plume; and natural attenuation continues to reduce contaminant concentrations throughout the affected areas. Institutional Controls are in place to restrict the use of contaminated groundwater, ensure access and protect remedy implementation, and prevent disturbance of the source areas, and a long-term monitoring program functions to ensure that threats to human health and the environment remain below regulatory thresholds.

The following measures must be taken in order to ensure protectiveness in the long term: (1) continued reduction in contaminant loading from the source of the western plume to support the effectiveness of natural attenuation, (2) evaluating the existing ICs and developing an Institutional Control Implementation and Assurance Plan (ICIAP) that incorporates the results of the evaluation and prepares any additional IC activities needed for long-term stewardship, (3) implementing additional contingent remedial actions if compliance criteria are exceeded, and (4) effectively monitoring the site until remedial standards are achieved.


Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
william ryan (ryan.williamj@epa.gov)
(312) 353-4374

Community Involvement Coordinator, U.S. EPA
cheryl allen
(312) 353-6196




Site Profile Information

This profile provides you with information on EPA's cleanup progress at this Superfund site.


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