Residents tell Plainfield Township Board: ‘You owe us more’

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- During Monday night's Plainfield Township board meeting, many residents stated that they have little faith in the township board and its handling of the water contamination situation in their community.

The meeting was different than previous meetings for two reasons, the first being that it was run by Trustee Sue Morrow rather than Supervisor Robert Homan, who was on vacation. Secondly, Morrow made it clear at the start of the meeting that not all concerns and questions would be answered by the board. By the end of the public comment period, almost none of residents' questions were answered.

“Seems like people are walking away without any answers, and we need to find some trust with the board here," one resident said. "So I don’t think I’m alone in stating that people are frustrated, and they feel there’s not a lot of faith here."

After numerous direct calls for transparency on Monday night, board members remained silent under the direction of Sue Morrow.

When confronted with a simple question from the leader of the advocacy group Demand Action from Plainfield Township, Cody Angell, the board still gave no answers.

Angell referred to a document from 1982, which shows the township board at the time had voted to buy itself a water purifier. This has many residents suspicious that for decades, board members have known about the township's contaminated water and only took steps to protect themselves.

Angell also asked the board to test for contaminants that go beyond the list of 90 that the EPA requires, but he got no direct answer.

“My heart hurts over what’s happening to our community," another resident added, "and I think everybody sitting behind that counter there owes us more. You owe us more."

Trustees Ben Greene and Jack Hagedorn stated they don't think the format of the board meetings has been serving the needs of residents. Greene says they are working on a way to better communicate with residents.

Greene wrote a Facebook post to Demand Action from Plainfield Township:

"I understand the frustration many of you have. I understand that many of you have had negative interactions with the Township in years past. I know that many have a real lack of trust in the local government. Though I have only served for one year and cannot change what’s happened in the past, I do believe it’s my responsibility as your representative on the Board to improve upon it – not only today but for the future. We won’t get very far without mutual trust. I’m working with a few members of the board (Jack in particular) to find ways to improve communication and collaboration. I’m confident that if we all work together, we can achieve outcomes that we all are happy with – and that improve life in the Township for everyone."

One of the few details about the board's plan to address the contaminated water came from the township's attorney, Doug Van Essen. He told residents that the township will need a permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality before they install a water filter, that they say will cost roughly $400,000. Van Essen says he's optimistic it will be approved by state regulators within 60 days.

Van Essen added that the filter will only be a short-term system. The cost of a permanent solution has not yet been made clear.

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