A lawsuit filed by a group of Brighton Township residents against General Motors alleging groundwater contamination resulting from the Milford Proving Grounds has been removed from Livingston County Circuit Court to U.S. District Court in Detroit.

Attorney Alexander Memmen is representing a group of the residents who have filed suit and says the action to move the lawsuit was initiated by GM as the automaker believes that the issues concerning the proving grounds are related to the company’s 2009 bankruptcy and thus belong in federal court. Memmen tells WHMI while there are some points to be ironed out in that regard; they feel the case was filed properly in Livingston County. Memmen says they will be filing motions soon in the case, although he declined to elaborate as to exactly what they will be seeking.

As for the lawsuit itself, the residents claim the contamination has caused permanent environmental damage, affected their 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)