Michigan DEQ Intervenes
in Boardman LakeCase Citing "Programmatic Reasons,"
the Polluters in Fight by City and Local Citizens
to End 30 Years' Contamination by Local Textron Plant
The agency responsible for protecting our state's
environment has joined the polluters.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality informed NMEAC on Monday that
it is intervening in the lawsuit filed in October by NMEAC against the $13 billion Textron Corporation
of Rhode Island, which operates
the local Cone Drive Division plant on BoardmanLake.
Citing "programmatic reasons," the DEQ will oppose NMEAC's effort to
get the Court to appoint an independent Special Master to oversee the cleanup
effort. DEQ explained to NMEAC that its intervention had nothing to do
with the specifics of the BoardmanLake
case. Rather, DEQ said, the agency always opposes court intervention in
cases like this because that would tie the agency's hands in dictating the
terms of the cleanup response.
"That's exactly why we need an independent Special Master," says
NMEAC board chair Ken Smith. "DEQ has been directing the response for 30
years, and it hasn’t gone anywhere. That’s why we want the court to
intervene -- to get this mess cleaned up."
A Traverse City Commissioner said today that if the DEQ was interested in
they’d have cracked down on Textron a long time ago with fines and
penalties, not used "programmatic reasons" as an excuse to further
delay forcing the polluters to clean up their mess.
"We’re glad DEQ’s finally come out of the closet and revealed
whose side they’re on," says Ann Rogers, a NMEAC member and Traverse
City Commissioner. "We’ve suspected for a long time that it's
the DEQ bureaucrats in Lansing
rather than the career enforcement folks in Northern Michigan
who've been running the show. We've been unable to prove it until
now. DEQ’s intervention from downstate makes it clear why Textron
has been able to drag this out for 30 years."
Citing the slow pace of the cleanup, the Traverse City Commission voted
unanimously in November to join NMEAC in the lawsuit against Textron.
Commissioner Rogers says that the DEQ's performance has been less than
exemplary. "I've wondered for years why they haven't been more aggressive,
when the wrongdoing of this company has been so obvious," she said.
"Now it looks like there may be a level of cooperation between our state
enforcement agency and a company that is clearly breaking the law that I find
NMEAC chair Smith agrees, saying it appears that Textron would rather pay huge
legal fees to keep polluting than to pay a dime to clean up the toxic mess
flowing into BoardmanLake.
Smith fears that the court could go along with this effort by DEQ and Textron
to exploit a technicality, further delaying NMEAC's five year campaign to get BoardmanLake cleaned up. The Circuit
Court has scheduled a hearing for this Thursday, November 6, at on DEQ/Textron's motion to dismiss
"The public interest is clear," Smith said.
"Textron’s mess should be cleaned up without further delay.
The City is on our side. The region’s citizens are on our
side. What we’ll learn on Thursday is whether the DEQ’s and
Textron’s lawyers are going to be allowed to override the public interest
and keep the toxins pouring into BoardmanLake for another 30 years."