Local activists voice criticism against Ford's battery plant development plans for Marshall
Some residents are concerned about Ford's battery plant plans near Marshall, Michigan.
Ford announced its development plans on Monday. The plant will occupy a 1900-acre stretch of agricultural land known as the Marshall Megasite.
Ford will manufacture nickel-cobalt-manganese and lithium-iron-phosphate batteries for electric vehicles. Some of these materials are heavy metals, which have been linked to health problems at high exposures.
Ford says 245 acres bordering the Kalamazoo River will be protected for nature conservation.
But local activists remain wary of industrialization due to environmental impacts.
"I think the state of Michigan should not be taking open space— riverside riparian habitat, wildlife habitat, and productive farmland— and converting it to industrial use," said Marcia Stucki, a farm owner near the construction site. "That's a very shortsighted thing to do."
Stucki recalled when a ruptured pipeline owned by Enbridge created a disastrous oil spill in the Kalamazoo River in 2010.
"They might say... nowadays, industry is not allowed to dump waste into the Kalamazoo River. But the Enbridge disaster is an example of yeah, they're not allowed to do that but after it happens, it's too late!" said Stucki.
Rebecca Glotfelty is a community activist who was born in Marshall. Riverside Farm, a local historic farmstead, has been owned by her family for generations.
"[Ford] can have a press announcement, they can say that this is their intent. But, it doesn't mean that it's going to happen," said Glotfelty.
The city of Marshall and Marshall Township Board is holding a public hearing on February 21st to discuss land transfer conditions for the Marshall Megasite.
Glotfelty hopes that showing up to speak out against development plans can still make a difference.
"This is part of our agricultural heritage that we are losing at such a rapid pace here in Michigan," said Glotfelty. "With [industrialization], you'll never be able to use this land again."
Stucki and Glotfelty question why the state is not remediating existing abandoned industrialized sites instead of constructing new ones along the river.