A federal and a class action lawsuit have been filed on behalf of Michigan’s more than 11,000 displaced residents.
EDENVILLE, MI — Two lawsuits have been filed against the operator of failed dams in Michigan.
The suit alleges that the failure and neglect of four parties: Boyce Hydro, manager Lee Mueller, Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The suit claims they are all responsible for the forced evacuation of 11,000 people.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages in excess of $75,000. FeganScott, a law firm that specializes in class action suits, is representing businesses and homeowners affected by the flooding.
The Tittabawassee River overflowed beyond the riverbanks late Tuesday when the aging Edenville and Sanford dams failed after heavy rain. The river crested Wednesday in Midland, damaging or destroying a number of homes and businesses.
First, residents and businesses in the submerged communities filed suit in a Detroit federal court against the operator of the dams and the two state agencies charged with overseeing the structures. It charges, in part, that the dam operators “failed to operate, fix, or repair the dams in accordance with the established standard of care, resulting in catastrophic injury and damage to residents and their properties.”
President Donald Trump declared an emergency Thursday.
On Friday a second class-action suit was filed. Morgan & Morgan, Grant & Eisenhofer, and the Jenner Law offices, attorneys in the class action lawsuit, say the flooding was preventable.
“Despite knowing the threat posed by these unsafe dams, the defendants allegedly refused to pay for much-needed repairs and upgrades,” stated Frank Petosa, spokesman for the law firms.
Several homes were damaged in Midland, but no one has been injured or killed. Selina Tisdale, a Midland city spokeswoman, said Friday that displaced residents are allowed to return home if it is safe to do so.
Dow Chemical Co. is headquartered in Midland and it has a plant next to the river. When the river crested, the floodwaters mixed with containment ponds at the Dow plant and the company admitted the flooding could displace sediment from a downstream Superfund site, though it said there was no risk to people or the environment.
On Friday, Dow and its foundation announced a $1 million donation for flood recovery efforts.
Dow said $250,000 will go to an assistance fund to help Dow employees directly hit by the flooding and $250,000 will go to the United Way to provide resources for Midland County families affected by the flooding. Another $500,000 will be allocated for needs that surface throughout the recovery and rebuilding phase.
Nearby Spaulding Township faces danger from an overflowing Saginaw river too.
“The river levels are so high, they are trying to find the lowest spot and that happens to be us,” Spaulding Fire Chief Tom Fortier said. The National Guard and fire departments were filling about 3,000 sandbags to hold back the water. But in some homes, water stood two to three feet deep, according to Fortier.
The Associated Press sent an email Friday seeking comment from Boyce Hydro. Representatives of both state agencies declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.