COMSTOCK PARK, Mich.-- The call for action to solve the water contamination problem in parts of northern Kent County intensified with a local visit from Erin Brockovich and a call for legislative action by State Representative Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids).
Three Michigan law firms are encouraging people to join their class action lawsuit against Wolverine Worldwide, 3M and Waste Management for dumping that allegedly put harmful chemicals in groundwater. Brockovich made a visit to Comstock Park on Saturday to meet with residents about this issue. She says responsibility extends beyond corporations who did the dumping and also goes straight to local government.
“We thought that somebody had our back. We’re waking up to the fact that nobody really does have our back," Brockovich tells FOX 17. "Information gets concealed and often times we get told ‘What do you know? Why are you speaking up about it? Do you work there? Do you work at the state? Are you a doctor? Are you a lawyer? Are you a scientist? What do you know? Be quiet.’”
Brockovich says residents can't afford to trust their elected officials who are, according to her, hiding their wrongdoing that contributed to this issue. She encourages people to keep pushing for answers, even when government officials tell them to keep quiet.
“The local councils often times disregard it and automatically I’m like, ‘What are you hiding?’” says Brockovich.
Even State Representative Winnie Brinks is calling out the government's lack of transparency.
“Clearly some accountability on all levels of government is needed here," Brinks tells FOX 17. "I’ve heard from folks today: local, state, federal, disappointment in the responses in all those levels of government. So, I think this is a real call from our friends and neighbors here to examine our response and are we doing enough?”
Brinks, who sponsored a new bill to create more funding for safe drinking water, says she got a clear message from residents on Saturday.
“It’s very informative to kind of get the tone of the whole community and try and figure out what is it that they’re really looking for," Brinks says. "What is it that they’re really frustrated with? What is it that we can potentially do in terms of an oversight role at the state level, insuring that the state is doing what it’s supposed to be doing?"
For Brockovich, the answers to those questions are obvious.
“The health department’s involved," Brockovich says. "They will deflect onto you because yes, somebody’s done something wrong. I mean you have to know that that’s what’s going on.”
She says people affected by contaminated water need to stand up for themselves and implement change on their own.
“There’s always gonna be an argument but communities can follow those gut common sense traits or skills that they have," says Brockovich. "Ask questions, get involved, go to city council meetings, push back, push for clean-up, understand what the chemical can do. If you’re sick, you can better communicate with your doctor about what you can do and defend yourself.”
Plainfield Township, one of the communities impacted by contaminated water states on it's website:
"Plainfield Township Water Department is committed to providing superior quality water that meets or exceeds the high safety standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The Act sets forth a rigorous scientific process to set standards for drinking water quality. Our skilled water professionals work tirelessly to fulfill the standards and protect public health and safety”
However, according to the EPA, from December 2016 to June 2017 Plainfield Township's water was in violation of federal health-based drinking water standards. It tested above health guidelines for 1,4-dioxane, PFOs and hexavalent chromium.