“They lied to us” about contaminated groundwater, say residents near Ford’s Livonia plant

Photo: Monica O’Connor and Bruce Tenniswood on the porch of her Alden Village home. Credit: Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Two years ago, residents of Alden Village, a small subdivision directly east of Ford Motor Company’s Livonia Transmission, got a letter from the automaker.

It was not good news.

A plume of groundwater contaminated with vinyl chloride and trichlorethylene — both known carcinogens — had moved off plant property, and was now underneath about two-thirds of the roughly 110 homes in the neighborhood.

Ford tells residents their health is not at risk

Ford scheduled an informational meeting shortly afterwards, and Monica O’Connor went. Her home is just 700 feet from the boundary of the plant.

"It was a dog and pony show," she says. "We show up, they had charts and graphs and people talking and it was all very well prepared to impress. Their biggest impression they wanted to make was that there was not any contamination in our drinking water."

That is certainly inarguable. Livonia gets its drinking water from Detroit, just as most metro Detroit communities do.

Bruce Tenniswood, a retired deputy fire chief, says it was obvious Ford was using the drinking water talking point as a red herring.

"I understand how vinyl chloride works,” he says.

The real danger is vapor intrusion

Vinyl chloride is an extremely volatile substance. It releases as a gas in air pockets in the soil. If the contaminated groundwater is very shallow, as it is in Alden Village, vapor can get into homes and be inhaled.

“It doesn’t take much to get in your house,” says Tenniswood. “My basement is […]

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"They lied to us" about contaminated groundwater, say residents near Ford's Livonia plant
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"They lied to us" about contaminated groundwater, say residents near Ford's Livonia plant
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Vinyl chloride is extremely volatile. If the contaminated groundwater is very shallow, as it is in Alden Village, vapor can get into homes and be inhaled.
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Michigan Radio
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