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E-M:/ DEQ Intervenes for Polluter in Boardman Lake Lawsuit

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Press Release from
Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council
December 4, 2001

For further information contact:

Ken Smith, NMEAC Chair
        (231) 947-3280
        E-Mail:  ken@greatprograms.org


Michigan DEQ Intervenes
in Boardman
Lake Case
Citing "Programmatic Reasons," they join
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 Boardman Lake.

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 Boardman Lake 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 protecting Boardman Lake, 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 very disturbing."

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 Boardman Lake.

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 Boardman Lake cleaned up.  The Circuit Court has scheduled a hearing for this Thursday, November 6, at 10:30 a.m. on DEQ/Textron's motion to dismiss the case.

"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 Boardman Lake for another 30 years."