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Did auto industry pollute your Michigan town? Find out with interactive map

Bridge Michigan identified more than 100 polluted sites where automotive companies skipped out on the cleanup bill. Click each dot to see who polluted, and how much the public has paid. (Map by Sean Coté, Data Driven Detroit)

  • Bridge Michigan found more than 100 sites where taxpayers have paid the bill for auto industry pollution
  • Our interactive map shows which towns have been affected

As Michigan underwrites the auto industry’s electric vehicle future, it is also picking up the tab for the industry’s polluted past.

In a first-of-its kind analysis, Bridge Michigan has identified at least $259 million in publicly-subsidized environmental cleanups at more than 100 sites linked to Michigan’s auto industry.

Culprits include Michigan’s big three automakers — General Motors, Ford and Stellantis — along with dozens of suppliers of chrome-plated parts, industrial chemicals and other materials used to make cars.

Bridge’s map is not a complete accounting of automotive pollution in Michigan. It represents only those sites that Bridge could identify, where taxpayers have begun the long and expensive task of cleaning up. And Bridge’s tally was intentionally conservative, omitting many sites where the auto industry is a likely culprit, but records were lacking. Read more about how we tallied the cost

Among the communities hardest hit:

  • Flint, where it has taken $31 million so far to get GM’s sprawling former Buick City complex clean enough for reuse, plus tens of millions of dollars in public subsidies to reimburse developers for the cost of building on GM’s debris. 
  • Livonia, where neighbors remained unaware of vinyl chloride contamination beneath Ford’s still-operational transmission plant until it migrated offsite. Ford is liable for cleanup, but the state has also spent nearly $357,000 and recently cited Ford for failing to act fast enough. 
  • Trenton, where Chrysler agreed years before its 2009 bankruptcy to clean up its former chemical plant before selling the land to Wayne County. New contamination has repeatedly emerged, forcing taxpayers to pick up the $769,000 bill because Chrysler’s parent company, Stellantis, is not legally liable. 

The cleanup is just part of the burden that contaminated, abandoned sites have placed on Michigan’s public, said Danielle Lewinski, vice president of technical assistance with the Flint-based Center for Community Progress. 

“Beyond the environmental and personal health challenges of contaminated sites, they really weaken the strength of communities,” Lewinski said.

Experts have said the sites are risky to develop, offer little of value, stay vacant for decades and shrink local taxes bases.

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