A bitter battle over a contaminated industrial site first exposed by the 7 Action News Investigators is heating up again.
The hot issue when we broke the story three weeks ago was Ford’s effort to seal records in the case. Three days after our story aired, the judge who was leaning toward giving Ford a protective order reversed himself.
On Thursday, lawyers were before Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Richard Carretti again. This time it was an emergency hearing requested by a lawyer for Shelby Township. The township’s environmental expert was denied access to the contaminated site earlier this week, even though all the parties had earlier agreed to let him in.
“We were given access to the entire property and that is what we are here to get today. It’s been blocked at every turn judge,” said township attorney Raechel Badalamenti.
The controversy centers on an abandoned Ford Visteon plant on Mound Road in Shelby Township. Ford sold it to a demolition company called Indiana Metals, and the automaker has agreed to clean up contamination on the plant site after demolition is completed..
Enter Jim Dragun, a respected Environmental Scientist who discovered the pollution is far worse than first thought.
Dragun found two highly toxic chemicals used for degreasing had migrated into ground water under the adjacent property that Ford sold to developer Grand Sakwa. Dragun said the contamination posses a potential health threat, and more testing is needed to find out the full extent of the problem.
When Dragun, who was hired by Shelby Township and Grand Sakwa, showed up with an office trailer to start testing on the plant site this week, Indiana Metals wouldn’t let him on the property. So, attorneys asked for an emergency hearing to get access.
Lawyers for Ford and Indiana Metals told Judge Caretti they wouldn’t let Dragun in because he was expanding the scope of his testing and it could interfere with ongoing demolition and environmental testing Ford is doing on its own.
Judge Carretti was clearly running out of patience with the legal bickering.
“I think this is a classic example of much ado about nothing. It’s also a colossal waste of all of counsel’s time and the court’s time,” Caretti told the gaggle of nine attorneys standing before him.
Caretti instructed the lawyers to go into a conference room and work out the ground rules for Dragun’s testing. He told them if they couldn’t agree he’d call them back in and settle the issue for them.
Lawyers huddled for a while and came out with an agreement. The judge had to settle only a couple minor issues.
Jim Dragun said he will now get the access he needs for testing and begin next Monday. He said he wants to find out the source and extent of the contamination and look for a way to contain it so it doesn’t spread further.
Developer Gary Sakwa says until all of the contamination is identified and cleaned up, the property he bought from Ford to develop into subdivisions is useless.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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