News Feature | December 11, 2017

Michigan Residents Sue GM Over Alleged Salt Contamination

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga

Residents living near General Motor’s Michigan testing facility have come together to file a class action lawsuit against the manufacturer, claiming it has knowingly contaminated the local water supply since at least the 1980s.

“The alleged source of the contamination, which includes high levels of sodium and chloride, is the Milford Proving Grounds, a 4,011-acre vehicle testing facilities that borders Livingston and Oakland counties,” Michigan Live reported. “Opened in 1924, the Proving Grounds contains more than 100 miles of roads, ‘numerous parking lots,’ and more than 150 buildings, according to the lawsuit.”

The lawsuit points to the release of hundreds of thousands of tons of salt over the last 30 years as the contaminant at issue.

“Prolonged exposure to unsafe amounts of sodium and chloride can have a negative effect on liver and kidney, as well causing hypertension and high blood pressure,” per Michigan Live.

The lawsuit charged GM with fraud, violation of the Michigan Environmental Protection Act, negligence, trespassing, and acting as a public and private nuisance. Plaintiffs are seeking a $25,000-plus award for each affected resident, a stop to the pollution, and a comprehensive cleanup.

The manufacturer has a different take.

“GM does not believe the suit has merit,” the company said in a statement, reported by The Macomb Daily. “Salt deposits naturally occur in this area, and salt is also used on the many nearby public roads during winter. Nonetheless, acting as a good neighbor, salt usage at the Milford Proving Ground has been reduced by 60% over the last two decades.”

Residents claim that water tests conducted by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality have found elevated levels of sodium chloride in their homes. Some have been drinking bottled water since 2005.

According to The Macomb Daily, GM’s 2013 Annual Salt Usage and Monitoring Report indicated that 18,414 tons of salt were used at the proving grounds between 2007 and 2013 and the lawsuit claims that water sources demonstrated contamination within that timeframe. In 2014, GM acknowledged contamination.

“The suit alleges that until October 2014, when GM issued the migration notices to residents admitting contamination, and 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,” per The Macomb Daily.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.