A group of Brighton Township residents have filed suit in Livingston County Circuit Court to hold General Motors responsible for groundwater contamination resulting from the Milford Proving Grounds.

According to attorney Alexander Memmen, the contamination has caused permanent environmental damage, affected residents’ home values, caused damages to vegetation and landscaping, damaged and corroded personal property and caused negative health effects. The suit alleges that despite reports citing sodium chloride contamination for more than 30 years, GM actively concealed and ignored the level of pollutants leaching into neighboring groundwater and drinking water sources until 2014. Residents allege that GM has committed fraud, violated the Michigan Environmental Protection Act, was negligent, trespassed and have been a public and private nuisance. They are asking the court to award each affected resident an amount exceeding $25,000 and to force GM to no longer pollute their neighborhood and pay for cleanup and repair costs.

In response, GM said they do not believe this suit has merit, adding that, “Salt deposits naturally occur in this area, and salt is also used on the many nearby public roads during winter.” The company further maintains that “acting as a good neighbor, salt usage at the Milford Proving Ground has been reduced by 60% over the last two decades and GM submits regular reports on the groundwater quality at the Milford Proving Ground to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.”

The lawsuit alleges GM has known about chloride contamination since 1985 when an engineering firm recommended the company monitor chloride levels in wells and surface waters, examine salt usage, and check any new wells drilled at the site for contamination. However, it says after receiving the study results, GM ignored those recommendations and failed to disclose the contamination to regulatory authorities or local residents. (JK)