This past December, six Brighton Township, Michigan, residents banded together and served General Motors a hefty lawsuit. The alleged action? GM has contaminated the local water supply and attempted to cover up the action for the past three decades.
Jalopnik compiled an extensive report on the current legal proceedings and backstory on Wednesday. The report also shows just how difficult life has been for residents affected by the water contamination.
In short, the lawsuit alleges that GM’s use of road salt at the Milford Proving Grounds has now led to abnormally high levels of salt in the ground and drinking water. According to the lawsuit, the contamination “has caused and will cause the chemical extraction from the earth, and transport into the water used by Plaintiffs, of existing but otherwise dormant hazardous substances including, but not limited to, arsenic.”
The suit claims GM has known about the issue since 1985 and failed to disclose the contamination problems until 2014. Since then, GM has personally delivered cases of bottled water to affected residences in the area. But, needless to say, it’s left homeowners in a living nightmare without clean running water. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality notified residents in 2005 that the water featured excessive levels of salt and recommended switching to bottled water.
GM has defended itself saying salt deposits naturally occur in the area, and has since cut its salt usage at the Milford Proving Grounds by 60 percent. The automaker has also said the pending litigation cannot proceed since the suit deals with actions of “Old GM,” not the new entity that emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Yet, GM itself was concerned for the water contamination in 1985 and commissioned its own study, per the report. The study concluded that many factors contributed to increased salt in the water supply, but critically, it concluded, “road salt “appears to be a major source of chloride” at the facility. The suit cited this study, effectively pointing the finger at GM’s salt use, and declared the automaker concealed this knowledge.
Now, the decision to let the case proceed is up to a judge, who will decide if GM’s bankruptcy will shield the automaker from yet another lawsuit.