State: Bridge company's "trespassing" at Riverside Park known to city officials ahead of land swap proposal.

An email exchange between Detroit officials and the state confirms that various city departments knew about the Ambassador Bridge company’s unpermitted activities on city-owned land at Riverside Park more than a year ago, WDET has learned.

“The Bridge Company is trespassing onto our property,” wrote Detroit’s Department of Building, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department General Manager Ray Scott in January 2014. Scott also wrote that he looked into “certain legal maneuvers” and sought advice from the city’s Law Department about how to deal with the situation.

Scott and other city officials declined to comment about the information. Representatives from the Detroit International Bridge Company, which owns the Ambassador Bridge, have not responded to repeated calls for comment.

WDET reported earlier this week that MDEQ records show the bridge company was observed excavating and installing large underground utilities on city-owned land at the park.

The disruption of soil likely rendered past environmental tests on the eastern portion of Riverside Park obsolete, says Joshua Scheels, a senior environmental quality analyst at the MDEQ.

Scheels says state officials told the city that more soil sample testing would need to be conducted within the area the bridge company disturbed to determine if and what type of contamination the work caused.

The park, which has been mostly closed to the public since 2012 because of reported contamination in some areas, is part of a proposed land exchange agreement between the city of Detroit and the Detroit International Bridge Company. Mayor Mike Duggan and bridge company executives announced the deal in April.

The parcel that was disturbed by the utility work, according to state records, would go to the bridge company under the proposed terms of the deal. It is located alongside the existing bridge where owners want to build a second span.

On Tuesday, the City Council delayed a vote on the proposed land swap saying they wanted more information from MDEQ about environmental concerns at the site.

Click on the audio above to hear Amber Harvey reporting.

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  • WSU journalism and public affairs student exploring radio this summer as a WDET special projects intern. Has a passion for politics and news writing, stemming from a desire to inspire meaningful conversation about the world.