Douglas Van Essen

Plainfield ups ante in suit against state

January 7, 2011 // 0 Comments

The Charter Township of Plainfield announced recently that it has expanded its suit against Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to include a claim for the full value of its water treatment plant and the cost of any removal of the water softening residuals in the Coit Avenue pit—a total sum that could exceed $20 million. At the MDEQ’s specific suggestion and with its encouragement and approval, the water treatment plant was redesigned and rebuilt in the late 1980s and early 1990s to use the Coit Avenue pit for the nonhazardous lime residuals that are produced by the softening of municipal water. After 18,000 tons of the material has been deposited in the pit over the ensuing 20 years, the MDEQ changed its mind in 2009 and decided that the gravel pit was a “state lake” and insisted that the plant be redesigned and rebuilt and that all residuals in the pit be removed—a joint project that could top $20 million in cost. After extended negotiations with the state broke down in August 2009, the township sued the MDEQ in Kent County Circuit Court, seeking to enjoin it from changing its mind in light of the township’s reliance on the MDEQ’s long-standing, previous position. The recent expansion of the suit to include a claim for damages was made by the township after the state argued that the Kent County Circuit Court could not enjoin the MDEQ, but could only award the township damages. “We had no real choice but to sue,” noted the township’s supervisor, George Meek. “We cannot let our residents and residents in neighboring townships that rely on the plant for water absorb the totally unnecessary costs of rebuilding our plant—especially in these trying economic times. Now, because of the state’s own strategy, we have no real choice but to ask for an injunction, or in the alternative, millions of dollars from the state in damages.” The state itself estimated that the changes it is requesting will cost each family served by the plant over $120 each year forever. “That’s worth fighting over, especially when nothing is to be gained environmentally,” said Robert Homan, the township’s manager. “We have had environmental studies performed and, as the MDEQ itself expected in the 1980s and […]

Plainfield Township sues State over water

August 6, 2009 // 0 Comments

‘This is truly a last resort’ Not fighting the state on this could cost Plainfield Township as much as $8 million, advised attorney Douglas Van Essen of Silver & Van Essen Litigation and Counseling. The Plainfield Township Board voted unanimously to enter into a lawsuit with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) during its Monday, August 3 meeting. According to Van Essen, the state has changed its mind on whether a lagoon in the township is a state body of water. He said that on June 30 the head of the DEQ’s water management division told the township the lake had been reclassified as a state body of water, in part because of its size, in part because of the thriving fish and wildlife population it hosts. Under the new designation, the township will no longer be able to discharge lime slurry used in treating water into the lake. The reclassification could include removal of the sediment so far deposited, and require the creation of a new lagoon. This would land lock the township’s water plant and limit the ability to provide water to residents in the future. It could cost the township millions, Van Essen said. Van Essen stressed that the lime is not a pollutant, and is not dangerous. It is the same product used in treating the water that township residents drink. The township has been using the lagoon since 1988 for discharge. At that time, Van Essen said, the DEQ said the lake was not a state body of water and could be used for such a purpose. He stated that the law has not changed, only the opinion of the DEQ officials. Coit Gravel Company owns the lagoon, located behind Family Fare on Northland Drive. Finished with mining from the location, the gravel company agreed to sell the lagoon to the township for $880,000. The sale would be financed by the gravel company for ten years and would allow the continued deposit of slurry. “This will have to be settled in the courts,” Van Essen said. Building another lagoon is possible. The Plainfield Township water treatment property on Plainfield Avenue has room for a smaller lagoon. However, that land was taken through eminent domain because the township projects it […]