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"It's ruined my life." Holly Twp. neighbors blame new development for flooding their properties

Posted at 3:38 PM, Nov 18, 2021
and last updated 2022-03-17 19:52:33-04

(WXYZ) — Families in Holly Township say their homes and yards are flooding thanks to a mobile home development. Now, they’re worried about the safety of their drinking water as well. And those families say no one seems to be able to help them.

Neighbors along Falk Road in Holly Township have had it. They’ve been taking videos showing rivers rushing through their backyards and water flowing at all hours of the night near their homes.

These families say ever since the Holly Hills Mobile Home Park across the street started expanding earlier this year, their yards and basements have started flooding.

“We had to replace the carpet, the walls, everything,” said Tim Petiprin.

“It’s so upsetting that you’ll make me cry right here on camera! Because I cry almost daily about this. It’s ruined my life,” said Denise Cantu through tears.

“Nobody seems to listen to us. This has been going on for 3-4 years now,” said John Yuhn.

“We had a couple rain events where the water was up to the top of the sand bags and did breach my basement,” Mark Taylor told 7 Investigator Heather Catallo as he showed stacks of sandbags along the back of his house.

Taylor and his wife Stacy have been fighting for answers from every level of government ever since they found out that Holly Hills was planning to expand from 242 units to at least 434 units.

But the Taylor family and their neighbors say so far no one will stop the expansion, and they say it’s ruining their properties.

“They already just clear cut 30 acres of forest over there. So all that water in the wetland, all the retention — all the trees that were retaining that water — they’re not there anymore,” said Taylor. “It’s ending up in our homes.”

Wetlands play a major role in preventing flooding. But Yes Communities, which owns Holly Hills Mobile Home Park, seems to have ignored some of the state’s rules on wetland protection. After an on-site inspection last month, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) issued violations to Yes Communities for discharging sediment and stormwater into a state regulated wetland.

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EGLE officials tell the 7 Investigators that Yes Communities did respond to the violations, but the state has asked them for more details on how they’re going to prevent future stormwater discharges.

And flooding isn’t the only thing the Falk Road neighbors are worried about.

“How concerned are you for your family,” asked Catallo.

“Real concerned,” said Petirpin.

They discovered a few years ago they live next to the Village of Holly’s old dump site, which was confirmed to have toxic contaminants in the soil and groundwater back in the ‘90s.

EGLE recently told the Village they had to take samples from monitoring wells on the site, and residents say their own tests revealed the hazardous forever-chemicals known as PFAS in some water samples.

“It’s not a good situation,” said geologist Michael Wilczynski.

Wilczynski is retired from EGLE but he’s been sharing his decades of environmental experience to help the Falk Road neighbors.

“The flooding coming from the expansion across the road is traversing part of the old dump. And now foam is starting to appear in the runoff,” said Wilczynski. “And it’s the kind of foam that to me looks like PFAS foam.”

Wilczynski says the water run-off is spreading the contaminants around the neighbors’ properties and that’s not all.

“It’s adding additional water to the soils at the dump that infiltrate and leach the contaminants and carry it into the groundwater,” said Wilczynski.

“Are you concerned about the drinking water for your residents,” Catallo asked Holly Township Supervisor George Kullis.

“Absolutely! We’ve got 100,000 people [who] rely on that aquifer. And it’s just not the people that live on that road — it’s the entire community,” said Kullis.

Kullis says the township’s hands are tied — he says they have no authority to provide oversight to the construction at the mobile home park. Kullis says that’s because Yes Communities reports solely to the Michigan Mobile Home Commission.

“Nobody monitors what they’re doing — it’s their own engineer that signs off that says ‘yep we did what we’re supposed to.’ Nowhere else in our society do we have checks and balances like that,” said Kullis.

The 7 Investigators tried repeatedly to ask Yes Communities about the flooding and contaminant problems.

But after waiting several minutes at their offices in Farmington Hills, we were told to contact their corporate offices. And despite several calls and emails, no one has gotten back to us.

“It’s not fair,” said Cantu. “It seems like someone should be able to help protect us.”

Holly Township residents are holding a meeting on this Thursday November 18, 2021 at 7pm. It will be held at the American Legion Holly Post #149, 408 S. Saginaw St., Holly, MI.

Meanwhile, EGLE officials say they will continue monitoring this situation.