Off Telegraph Road between Van Horn and Vreeland Roads, at the point where Brownstown, Flat Rock and Woodhaven all converge, resides one of Downriver's largest mobile home parks, Deerfield Estates. A quiet, secluded area at its construction, and again today, there was plenty of unrest among its residents in the late 1980s, as the contamination dangers at Petroleum Specialties, Inc. became distressingly apparent.
Located on Peters Road south of Van Horn, PSI was a small petroleum processing and storage facility, one of three located Downriver back then (Marathon in Melvindale and Socony in Woodhaven the other major producers). Given the type of damages eventually found on site, the facility was not in production for that long; having opened in the 1930s and closed by sometime in 1964. With a storage capacity of 17 million gallons, the property lay abandoned for nearly twenty-five years, all its contaminating fluids still in place, seeping into the groundwater and making for a hazardous situation.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources began examining the blighted property in the summer of 1989 and came up with the horrifying results: Petroleum open to the air, several toxins, asbestos, cyanide, PCBs, and chemicals leaking from electrical transformers still on the property that the occasional urban explorer had access to. With the Deerfield Estates property now extended east (and an access road built from Peters Road), the dangers to the community became all too well-known.
The PSI lands and property, though not in operation since 1964, was still in control by the company under Marvin Fleischman when the initial case was presented in 1991, ordering the company to provide funds and means to clean up the site (as had been done at the old BASF South Works plant site in Wyandotte in the 1980s). The case progressed, as PSI did not satisfy the Department's demands in a timely manner. MDNR pressed suit by November 1991, while PSI counter-sued. All the while, nearby residents began witnessing the horrid smells eminating from the property on hot summer days.
Finally, by the mid 1990s, judgement was rendered and the property underwent the beginnings of a massive cleanup which took several years, with thousands of truckloads of chemicals and equipment removed from the site. The various outbuildings, leaking electric equipment, lagoons, and other structures have been removed from the site, the soil treated, and the property secured by a more suitable barrier. A motorist driving by the site today does not take note of, and perhaps will not recall, the facility which has been closed nearly 50 years but, most unfortunately, had a sticky story which lasted much longer than it should have.