Ann Arbor Township files lawsuit against mining company
Ann Arbor Township has filed a lawsuit against a mining company alleging that the company's activity at the Vella Pit on Earhart Road has dried up multiple residential wells, violated township ordinances, and negatively affected the surrounding neighborhood and environment.
The Township also filed a motion for a temporary restraining order that would cease the mine's operations immediately. The companies have objected to this motion.
Mid Michigan Materials is named in the suit and is the owner and main operator of the pit, which is mined for sand and gravel that is used in construction. Residents say the mine's water use has lowered the local water table significantly and was responsible for at least 10 wells drying up and nearly 30 others lowering and losing pressure.
Michael Watts is an Ann Arbor resident and owns property near the mine. "The well on our land has dropped 22 feet. Some folks, it's been dropping an inch a week," he said.
In their objection to the motion for a temporary restraining order, the companies argue that there is no emergency:
"The reality is that not a single resident is without water as a result of Defendants' operations. Defendants have promptly addressed any residential water access issues potentially related to their operations, and no new issues have been brought to Defendants’ attention for many weeks. Quite simply, no irreparable harm exists," the companies say in their court filing.
In a violation notice issued to Mid Michigan Materials on September 14, the the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy said inspectors observed the discharge of sediment from the mining pit into a nearby creek, lake, and wetlands.
The department said the discharged sediment has accumulated in those waterways, which is considered a filling of wetlands and a violation of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.
Watts said it's been disheartening to watch the nature surrounding his property change: fewer fish and turtles, and dried up ponds.
"They effectively took what was a small, family-owned, multi-generational mining operation, and turned it into an industrial strip mine, and ignored the contracts and commitments they made to the community," Watts said.
Representatives for Mid Michigan Materials did not respond to requests in time for publication.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported the lawsuit was against three mining companies. It is actually against three LLCs all operated by Mid Michigan Materials.