Ford, MDEQ settle over tainted groundwater in Livonia

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. will continue cleaning up harmful chemicals discovered in the groundwater and soil around the Livonia Transmission Plant and will submit plans to prevent future contamination, according to a settlement filed with the state Friday.

Ford has been investigating and abating the contamination since it was discovered in 2014, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court. Ford said in early 2016 that samples with potentially cancer-causing chemicals were found seven feet or more underground, but those chemicals pose no health risk to residents. Drinking water was not at risk.

The contamination came from trichloroethylene, a solvent used at the plant as a parts degreaser until the 1980s. That chemical broke down into the hazardous vinyl chloride, which Ford found in groundwater at the plant while doing upgrades. Vinyl chloride exposure is associated with an increased risk of a rare form of liver cancer, as well as brain and lung cancers, lymphoma and leukemia, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The company will pay the state $45,253, according to a settlement with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Ford agreed to take a number of steps to abate as necessary any pollution caused by trichloroethylene and vinyl chloride that seeped into the groundwater near the plant; the company will also submit a series of plans to the state outlining future preventative measures.

The state sued Ford late last week alleging that Ford had handled the contaminants at the plant located at 36200 Plymouth Road in Livonia “in such a manner that may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment.”

The state sued in part to ensure Ford modified its handling of solid and hazardous waste. As part of the settlement, the state will not sue or take any further action against Ford related to the groundwater and soil contamination.

“We will continue to work closely with the City of Livonia and the MDEQ to address the issue,” a Ford spokesman said in an emailed statement Monday. “Importantly, all samples collected to date show no health risk to residents, and drinking water is not at risk.”

According to a lawsuit, the hazardous waste had “migrated” to properties in areas bounded to the east by Stark Road and Boston Post Street, to the south by Plymouth Road, to the west by Farmington Road, and to the north by the railroad.

Last year, Ford drilled in that area to identify the location of the vinyl chloride and see if it had migrated off-site. In addition to underground water testing, Ford conducted below-ground soil air sampling to assess outdoor and indoor air impacts, but those tests found no impact to the air quality.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau