Shelby officials, Ford and MDEQ disagree on meeting, transparency
Shelby Township officials want to meet Ford Motor Co. and state environmental quality representatives to discuss cleanup efforts after contamination was found at the former Ford Mound Road Industrial site, 50500 Mound Road, in 2012, but township Supervisor Richard Stathakis said some parties are not being as transparent as they should be.
“I want a meeting with everybody in the room, and we are trying to solve this. This is pretty serious,” Stathakis said.
He said the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality — a state agency that provides environmental education, programs and emergency response information — has not been transparent about their dealings with Ford and its cleanup efforts at the industrial site.
Stathakis said that MDEQ District Supervisor Paul Owens declined to invite Shelby Township officials and representatives to a May 14 meeting with Ford, because it would be a “confrontational” environment if all the parties attended. Ford and MDEQ officials said the meeting never happened.
“This issue of environmental contamination is the one we should be talking about, not whether or not the experts here in Shelby Township will conduct themselves appropriately,” Stathakis told the Shelby-Utica News in his office recently. “And besides … I think the issue of contamination overrides any of that.”
In 2012, reportedly potentially cancer-causing contamination, trichloroethylene, was found at the Mound Road Industrial site. Trichloroethylene is a volatile organic chemical that is a colorless or blue liquid with a chloroform-like odor, according to www.water.epa.gov. People who are exposed to it by drinking the contaminated water could experience liver problems and may have a higher chance of getting cancer.
Ford sold the site to Farmington Hills-based Grand Sakwa Properties LLC and Indiana Metals, but retained any legal responsibility for potential findings, such as contamination; Shelby Township is not responsible or liable for the contamination.
Ford Motor Co. purchased 337 acres around the plant in 1962 and operated the plant until its 2009 closing.
Stathakis said Shelby Township officials would have discussed Ford’s cleanup plan May 14.
“We have a lot of questions,” he said. “Where is your plan? When are you going to have a plan? What are you going to do?”
Ford spokesman Todd Nissen gave an emailed statement to the Shelby-Utica News regarding the reported May 14 meeting.
“Ford identified this issue, reported it to the state, and continues to actively work to resolve this matter. We remain committed to sharing data with all parties, including Shelby Township,” the emailed statement said. “It is common practice for various parties to have individual meetings with the (MDEQ) to present and discuss technical data. Ford takes this issue seriously and remains committed to doing what is right for the community and the environment.”
Nissen said after the statement that because Ford is in litigation, they are not allowed to have certain discussions regarding the contamination cleanup efforts.
“We’re restricted in what we can say publicly,” Nissen said, “including discussing what meetings may or may not be happening.”
Nissen could not say when the next meeting is scheduled with Ford.
Owens said recently that Ford declined to have the May 14 meeting because they did not want Shelby officials in attendance, after originally inviting Shelby.
“After the weekend (before the meeting), Ford calls me and said they didn’t want to meet with Shelby Township at this time; they didn’t tell me why,” Owens said. “I know they explained they were in a lawsuit and told me they were working under the advice of their legal counsel.”
Owens said the MDEQ is being transparent and any information that transpired during future meetings will be available to Shelby Township.
“The notes we take, any information, data provided to us, is public record,” Owens said. “The meeting notes are something I’ve made a commitment to Mr. Stathakis to forward those. That even goes beyond what we are required to do. We definitely are trying to be transparent. We have shared interest, as well; we want to see this site get cleaned up.”
On May 10, Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Richard Caretti met with Shelby officials and Ford representatives during an early disposition settlement conference.
Shelby Township Attorney Rob Huth told the Shelby-Utica News in a telephone conversation that Caretti asked the respective parties to continue to work toward a settlement and return June 26.
“We expect that Ford will present its plan to clean up the site,” Huth said.
Huth said the June 26 meeting is a continuation of the settlement conference.
“I hope we have progress so we can evaluate a plan,” he said. “Parties agreed to continue to work together, and the court is pushing us to get it resolved. Parties are talking, and that is always positive.”
A trial is scheduled for Oct. 1, if a settlement is not worked out, Huth said.
During a roughly three-hour township meeting April 24 at Township Hall, Stathakis and Huth discussed plans for remedying the contaminated areas; they also introduced James Dragun, who discussed an 8,064-page report that his Farmington Hills-based company compiled on environmental contamination at the site.
Township officials said Dragun estimated the cost to be about $150 million.
The site investigation occurred between Sept. 19 and Nov. 30, 2012, according to the report.
Ford has yet to formulate a figure of how much the contamination will potentially cost to clean up, Ford officials said.
On May 2, Stathakis sent a letter to Owens regarding the contamination cleanup process, and they requested that they be included in any future meetings Ford has regarding the contamination site.
On May 14, a township press release was sent out addressing Ford not inviting Shelby officials to their meeting that same day. The press release said that Stathakis reaffirmed that Shelby Township is in the process of seeking a court order requiring Ford to immediately clean up the contamination it caused and is asking MDEQ to provide “full transparency” of its meetings.
Stathakis said recently that he was invited and disinvited several times to the May 14 meeting because of Ford’s “comfort” level.
“I am not in this to make Ford comfortable,” Stathakis said about an earlier phone conversation with Owens. “I’m here to solve a problem, and the way you solve a problem is by inviting everybody into a room so we can start solving the problem.
“They’ve had six years to clean this mess up. They don’t even have a plan. We’ve taken a few months to come up with one. This is not transparent.”
For more information, go to www.shelbytwp.org. Hard copies of the environmental contamination report are available at the municipal building at 52700 Van Dyke Ave.