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Ford allegedly contaminated local groundwater near transmission plant
Homeowners in Livonia, Mich., sued Ford Motor Co. for alleged groundwater contamination from a local transmission plant.
The suit comes after a recent settlement between Ford and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), in which Ford agreed to pay $45,000 to the agency and clean up any pollution caused by potentially cancer-causing chemicals in the groundwater beneath the Livonia Transmission Plant. Ford said tests showed those chemicals pose no health risk for residents, and drinking water is not at risk.
According to the homeowners, the contamination came from trichloroethylene, a solvent used at the plant as a parts degreaser until the 1980s. This chemical broke down into the hazardous vinyl chloride, which Ford found in groundwater at the plant while doing upgrades. Vinyl chloride exposure is associated with an increased risk of a rare form of liver cancer, as well as brain and lung cancers, lymphoma and leukemia, according to the National Cancer Institute.
The tainted groundwater is flowing beneath the Alden Village neighborhood immediately east of the plant, lawyers representing the homeowners allege. Those homeowners had intended to take Ford to federal court to make Ford clean up the contaminants, but MDEQ settled.
The neighbors are suing Ford for a count each of negligence, private nuisance and public nuisance, and seeking damages in excess of $25,000 for each charge, according to a lawsuit filed in Wayne County Circuit Court.
Bruce Tenniswood, a homeowner represented in the case, said outside of suing for damages, he and others are relying on the government to make Ford abate the chemicals.
Ford issued a statement Wednesday: “We remain fully committed to protecting the environment. All community samples collected to date show no health risk to residents or drinking water.
“When we discovered the issue, we promptly alerted the MDEQ and the plant’s neighbors,” Ford spokesman John Cangany said in that statement. “Since then, we have actively worked with the MDEQ and investigated the potential for groundwater contamination, culminating in our settlement with the State of Michigan in July that includes plans for addressing the neighborhood and continued public outreach.”
Per the settlement with the MDEQ, Ford also said it will take steps to abate as necessary any pollution caused by trichloroethylene and vinyl chloride that seeped into the groundwater near the plant; the company also will submit a series of plans to the state outlining future preventative measures. When the MDEQ sued Ford in July, it said hazardous waste had “migrated” to properties in areas bounded to the east by Stark Road and Boston Post Street, to the south by Plymouth Road, to the west by Farmington Road, and to the north by the railroad.
Last year, Ford drilled in that area to identify the location of the vinyl chloride and see if it had migrated off-site. In addition to underground water testing, Ford conducted below-ground soil air sampling to assess outdoor and indoor air impacts, but those tests found no impact to the air quality.
said they want Ford to clean up the chemicals, and will be watching to make sure the MDEQ enforces the terms of the settlement.