As floodwaters still swamp Midland and neighboring mid-Michigan communities, federal lawsuits seeking class-action status have already been filed against the owners and operators of the Edenville and Sanford dams.
In one suit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Detroit, several homeowners in Midland and Saginaw counties claimed the failure of the Edenville dam amid heavy rains Tuesday was “entirely preventable,” and placed blame with people and companies associated with the owner of the dams, Boyce Hydro.
The breach of the Edenville dam north of Midland sent flood waters downstream, which overwhelmed the Sanford dam, destroying homes and businesses in both communities before sweeping through Midland and beyond.
The dam owners “indisputably knew for years that these Dams were inadequate, decrepit, unstable, unsafe, and would fail under predictable conditions,” according to the suit, link to suit filed by law firms Morgan & Morgan, Grant & Eisenhofer, and Jenner Law P.C.
The suit cites the now widely chronicled troubles of Boyce since acquiring the dams in 2006. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had repeatedly hounded the company to make safety and design improvements to better withstand heavy rains and potential flooding.
As Bridge has reported, Boyce repeatedly failed to invest in spillway upgrades or other work demanded by federal regulators, arguing in part that it did not have enough money.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported Friday that a second suit was filed in the same federal court. That suit charges that Boyce Hydro “failed to operate, fix, or repair the dams in accordance with the established standard of care, resulting in catastrophic injury and damage to residents and their properties.”
In addition to the company, the suit also names as defendants the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. It was filed on behalf of home and business owners by FeganScott, a firm that specializes in class-action suits.