Michigan Sues Company, Wants Payment for Cleanup

A lawsuit seeking over $1 million is filed against Brazeway Inc. to recoup environmental cleanup costs, while the company claims its offer to help pay for the cost of cleanup was rebuffed.

Michigan Attorney General Jennifer M. Granholm and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Director Russell Harding yesterday filed a lawsuit asking that Brazeway Inc., of Adrian, Mich., repay the state more than $1 million dollars in costs associated with the cleanup of environmental contamination at the company''s facility in Madison Township.

Brazeway manufactured aluminum tubing products at that facility since 1948. In 1995, MDEQ determined that chemical solvents used in the company''s manufacturing process had contaminated the ground water and residential drinking water supply around the Brazeway facility.

The state immediately provided bottled drinking and cooking water to the affected households and connected 112 residences in Madison and Palmyra Townships to a public water supply. To date, the state has spent more than $1.1 million dollars to protect residents from the contaminated water supply.

The contaminants found at the site include:

  • 1,1,1-TCA, which can cause dizziness, unconsciousness and loss of heartbeat;
  • 1, 4-Dioxane, a known carcinogen in animals and a suspected carcinogen in humans;
  • PCE, which can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, unconsciousness and death; and
  • TCE, which may cause nervous system effects, liver and lung damage, coma and possibly death.

Michael B. Adams, Brazeway vice president and CQO, says the company does not currently use the hazardous materials cited by the state in any of its processes and has not for many years. He also notes it was Brazeway that first discovered and voluntarily reported to the state that solvents were present in the soil at a location at the south end of the Brazeway property.

"There is no current threat to human health or the environment, and there are no releases occurring at the Brazeway facility," Adams insists. "As a long-time good corporate citizen of Adrian and Lenawee County, we recognize our obligation to this long past historic issue and have done and will continue to do everything in our power for a fair resolution."

Granholm and Harding claim past negotiations with the company have been unsuccessful, while Adams contends Brazeway has "jointly investigated, cooperated and negotiated in good faith with the state to reach a fair and equitable resolution to an historic contamination issue."

The company voluntarily spent several hundred thousand dollars over the past several years to have its MDEQ-certified independent environmental engineers investigate, develop and carry out appropriate response and treatment activities at the facility, he adds.

Adams claims that some of the chemicals found, such as MTBE, "clearly did not come from the Brazeway site" and have never been detected there. He says Brazeway offered to "contribute" to the cost of cleanup but that the state and MDEQ rejected that offer in favor of filing a complaint against Brazeway.

"Companies that cause environmental contamination should take responsibility for reimbursing the taxpayers costs associated with such contamination and take the necessary steps to implement a cleanup plan compliant with state law," says Harding.

Granholm and Harding asked the court to order Brazeway to repay the state for all of the costs associated with the cleanup, plus interest, and to reimburse the state for any future action necessary to continue the cleanup. They also asked the judge to order Brazeway to implement a cleanup plan at the facility to fully address any remaining contamination. The complaint seeks fines and penalties for contaminating the groundwater, violating hazardous waste laws, and failing to implement a remedial action plan.

"Michigan residents have every right to expect that the companies with whom they share their communities will take responsibility in keeping those communities safe and clean," believes Granholm. "Michigan''s water supply is more than precious, it''s a part of who we are in this Great Lakes state. We cannot allow it to be poisoned. Polluters should pay to clean up their own messes."

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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