Lawsuit seeks to assign blame for alleged groundwater pollution

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Lansing Township landmark

Lansing Township

By Ana Williams
Lansing Township News Staff Reporter

Who is to blame for allegedly polluted groundwater in Lansing Township? An ongoing lawsuit seeks to find out.

On May 8, 2014, Lansing Township filed a lawsuit in federal court within the Western District of Michigan, against Lansing’s Board of Water and Light (LBWL).

The suit sought for recovery costs and damages of the North Lansing Landfill (NLL). There were harmful substances and contaminated ground water, due to slurry walls and fly ash.

The root of this issue began in 1994, when the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) observed sudden increases in sulfate and selenium, both contaminants, in onsite monitoring wells in Lansing Township.

According to the Lansing Township v. LBWL press release, no residents were affected, but because LBWL did not take immediate action for this issue, Lansing Township decided to take the next step.

According to, Kathleen Rodgers, previous supervisor of Lansing Township stated that the lawsuit was filed to protect the residents of Lansing Township from having to pay money for BWL’s environmental contamination.

Since the case is still pending, LBWL’s Communications Coordinator, Amy Adamy, was unable to comment on the case.

By 2007, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classified the NLL as a proven-damage case as a danger to human health and the environment, due to the hazardous substances it contained.

“Fly ash is a problem in all of our states but three,” said Associate Professor of Environmental Science at University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, Laurel Phoenix. “Since there are so many utilities or other large facilities burning coal.”

“Most of it comes from coal-fired power plants. Depending on where the coal was mined, it can have numerous types of dangerous heavy metals in it which cause devastating illnesses to anyone exposed to this ash through drinking, eating, or breathing. Some ash is put in dry landfills, some in wet containment ponds, and some can be applied to agricultural fields,” said Phoenix.

Phoenix added, “You might wonder why something so dangerous can be allowed to be dumped in places that pollute groundwater, surface water, and agricultural fields, but the reason is that it is exempt from the very environmental laws that should have protected us from it.”

Phoenix also shared that the S.S. Badger, the Lake Michigan ferry between Wisconsin and Michigan, dumped its coal ash into Lake Michigan for over 60 years.

A Lansing Township resident was ask whether or not he was ever aware of the Lansing Township v. LBWL case.

“I have never heard anything about that,” said 42-year-old Adam McKenny. “Being a resident of this area though, I guess you could say I’m now interested in learning more about it.”

Despite such a problem, in recent days, Lansing Township has been encouraging its residents to act in environmental safety to prevent their community from environmental hazards such as this.

One environmental safety trend that Lansing Township has been pursuing is watershed management.

Photo by Rachel Beard.

Photo by Rachel Beard.

“Ground water management in most states is extremely poor,” said Phoenix. “In some states it is not managed at all, either in terms of quantity or protecting quality. Wisconsin and Michigan do a very poor job of protecting groundwater quality as well as protecting landowners from losing water to new high capacity wells.”

This explains a lot for the environmental concerns of Michigan residents.

“Colorado does the best job in protecting groundwater quantity,” said Phoenix. “With a very strict water law that acknowledges the connection of groundwater to surface waters, and prohibits any well drilling without the State Engineer first determining if drilling another well will harm any other users.”

Environmental sustainability

Made by Ana Williams

Phoenix added, “We have all of the hydrological and chemical studies we need to craft strong laws to protect ground water, and yet the legislators only attend to the special interests and their campaign donations.”

Links for watershed management are listed on the township’s website. These links work as a fundamental tool for township residents to follow, in order to proceed a sustainable community.

Lansing Township Environmental Issues

Lansing Township Environmental Issues


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