Today the United States Supreme Court accepted for filing our petition to appeal in the matter of Tingley v. City of Grand Rapids, Case No. 04-933. Earlier on December 30, 2004, the high court also accepted for filing our petition for U.S. ex rel. Tingley v. 900 Monroe, Case No. 04-886. Copies of both petitions are now available from the Local Area Watch.
The 900 Monroe case alleges that the developers and lead contractors of the Berkey & Gay redevelopment project, along with the City of Grand Rapids and former Mayor John Logie, illegally removed from the project site 26,000 tons of hazardous waste and dumped on the grounds of the old Monroe Avenue Water Filtration Plant. The case further alleges that the defendants made false statements to city and state officials to conceal this illegal activity.
The City of Grand Rapids case alleges that the some of the defendants in the 900 Monroe case with the assistance of their attorneys obstructed justice to stop the proceedings of the 900 Monroe case and other lawsuits that threatened to expose evidence of the illegal dumping and its cover-up. The Grand Rapids case also alleges that these parties retaliated against the Executive Director of the Local Area Watch and others for reporting evidence of the illegal dumping to state and federal law enforcement.
The lower courts refused to consider the facts of either of these cases and dismissed them for technical reasons of the law. (For a good summary of how this all played out, see pages 5 through 11 in the City of Grand Rapids petition.) These reasons are weak, but the lower courts used them because the defendants in both cases were represented by locally influential attorneys who successfully mischaracterized us and our motives as malicious and harassing. By this means, they persuaded the lower courts to not consider the overwhelming evidence of illegal dumping of hazardous waste and cover-up, including:
- Scientific analysis of the soil samples collected by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality from the Filtration Plant show that the soil dumped there was from the Berkey & Gay site;
- Hundreds of hours of surveillance videotapes recording hundreds of transports of contaminated soil from the Berkey & Gay site to off-site disposal locations;
- Photographs showing that none of this contaminated soil remained at the Berkey & Gay site after its excavation;
- An admission to a MDEQ criminal investigator by one of the project’s dump truck drivers that he had made false statements under oath about the illegal dumping;
- A statement by the project’s environmental consultant to the Kent County Circuit Court disavowing the validity of the report purportedly accounting for the disposition of all the waste at the Berkey & Gay project site that it had prepared for the MDEQ.
This has been a genuine “David versus Goliath” struggle. We are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to ignore the character assassination committed against us and our cause by powerful local law firms, including Warner Norcross, Varnum Riddering, Dykema Gossett, and Law Weathers, and consider only the law and the facts of these cases. The consequence of the Supreme Court letting the lower court decisions stand is two-fold. First, the hurdle will be raised for all ordinary citizens to use the statutes that the U.S. Congress provided to give us access to the federal courts to remedy serious threats to the environment and fraud against taxpayers that law enforcement has failed to properly address.
Second, the local bad guys are off the hook in federal court.* Our surveillance videotape records their massive removal of toxic soil contaminated with arsenic, lead, mercury, and other hazardous substances from the Berkey & Gay project site for dumping elsewhere – primarily at the nearby Filtration Plant. The videotapes prove this and that they lied to state investigators and the courts that no toxic soil had ever been removed from the project site. Because this poison has been left exposed to the environment at the Filtration Plant and other dumpsites, everyday our drinking water is threatened with the migration of hazardous substance into the groundwater then into the Grand River and finally into Lake Michigan.
The potential fines these defendants could face for this exceed over $30 million dollars for each truckload of toxic soil dumped off-site. Hundreds of hours of our surveillance videotape alone record about 800 truckloads of toxic soil being transported off the Berkey & Gay project site. Moreover, because of the defendants’ successful obstruction of law enforcement and the courts, the local government has not acted to alert those who may have exposed to these deliberate releases of hazardous substances into our local environment.
You can help by asking the Mayor and the City Commission of Grand Rapids to stop supporting the Berkey & Gay developers and act in the best interests of the City’s taxpayers and residents instead. You can also help by staying in the loop about this problem. Keep visiting us and contact us with any ideas, information, or concerns you.
* Fortunately, we also have a lawsuit pending against some of these defendants in Kent County Circuit Court for violation of the state’s Hazardous Waste Management Act.