Shelby Township barred from MDEQ/Ford Motor Company meeting

Shelby Township, automaker at odds over environmental contamination at former Ford plant


SHELBY TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Michigan Department of Environmental Quality District Supervisor Paul Owens barred all Shelby Township officials from attending a May 14 meeting between his department and representatives from Ford Motor Co. to discuss extensive environmental contamination at Ford's former auto plant at 50500 Mound Road that has spread to neighboring property.

According to a press release from Brad Bates, the Shelby Township Deputy Supervisor, after initially granting access to the Township, its attorney and environmental science experts, Owens refuted an invitation for the second time in a span of 24 hours less than six hours before the 2:30 p.m. May 14 meeting as he said Ford withdrew its participation because of the inclusion of township experts.

Township officials were initially invited to the meeting May 6 but were later barred from the meeting May 13 after Owens cited a belief that the mere presence of township representatives would lead to a confrontational environment, which would not foster productive conversation.

"Mr. Owens' belief that the Township's team of experts could not conduct itself in a courteous manner is insulting," Township Supervisor Rick Stathakis said. "Yes, this issue of environmental contamination so near our residents and parks is alarming and of the utmost concern, but it does not strip us of our ability to operate as dignified professionals."

Stathakis said that after more than an hour of discussion with Owens on matters of MDEQ transparency and responsibility to taxpayers May 13, Shelby Township was granted access with an apology, but it was short?lived as less than 24 hours later the Township was again barred from the meeting.

"Ford has known about this contamination for at least 7 years and has not taken any action whatsoever to remove it," Stathakis said. "And, knowing that, I don't know if I trust the authenticity of what transpires at these secret meetings."

Stathakis reaffirmed that Shelby Township, which is in the process of seeking a court order requiring Ford to immediately clean up the contamination that it has caused, is asking only that MDEQ provide full transparency of its meetings with Ford and Ford's submissions to the MDEQ.

"We want Ford to clean this mess up immediately, and we want full disclosure," Stathakis said. "Our residents are concerned about their health, safety, welfare, and property values and they deserve full access and information. And given that we had no hand in creating this mess, Shelby Township and its citizens deserve nothing less."

Where the controversy began

Groundwater contamination near a closed Ford Motor Company plant in Shelby Township has spread and is worse than first thought, say soil experts.

The plant, near 23 Mile Road and Mound, has been closed and was in the process of being demolished. It was sold by Ford to Visteon and than to Indiana Metals who was doing the demolition work.

The Macomb County Circuit Court hired the environmental consulting firm Dragun Corp as part of an ongoing lawsuit with Ford.

Last year Dragun Corp reported that soil samples showed health-threatening chemicals TCE and TCA present in the groundwater, reports The Oakland Press.

The company now says the situation is much worse. Read: Ford may face toxic land lawsuit

"This is a very serious situation and I am extremely concerned for the safety of all of the residents in this area," said State Representative Jeff Farrington in response to the findings.

"I will continue to monitor the situation and will do whatever I can to help make sure that a quick and thorough cleanup takes place to make the area safe again.  The residents in the area deserve nothing less."

In 2012 Ford attempted to get a Protective Order to seal documents dealing with the contamination.

"The situation is far worse than what we were initially told," said State Sen. Jack Brandenburg Harrison Township.  "Rep. Farrington and I will both pay close attention to any further details that are released about the pollution.  This is a very serious problem that needs to be dealt with in a fast and efficient manner for the residents of Shelby Township."

Cleanup of the site could cost as much as $150 million.