"Food Processors' Spraying Leaves West Michigan Wells Contaminated"

"FENNVILLE, Mich. -- John Dekker feels like he's camping out in his own home. He showers with bottled water and drags his laundry to a Laundromat. He can't sell his house without disclosing its glaring flaw -- his well is contaminated.

Neighbor Kari Craton's fingernails turned orange; her appliances were destroyed. Diana Bennett's garden is useless.

Some 50 families live near a plume of groundwater contaminated with metals that spread from the local Birds Eye processing plant. At a nearby Minute Maid juice plant, there's another plume.

In rural west Michigan, food processors have sprayed so much wastewater onto fields that heavy metals seeped into groundwater, contaminating wells. State officials have known of the polluting for at least a decade but, residents complain, moved slowly.

The list of tainted sites keeps growing. And the contamination plumes continue to spread as the Department of Environmental Quality and companies argue behind closed doors over what must be done. Frustrated residents say they're bearing the costs -- altered lives and fear of the water that pours from their taps -- even as state and industry officials say there's no acute health threat. 'You're living with all these problems, but you can't get out,' Craton said."

Tina Lam reports for the Detroit Free Press August 9, 2009, in the first part of a two-part series.
 

Monday, August 10, 2009