When the Edenville Dam failed on May 19, 2020, causing the overflow and flooding of water over the Sanford Dam, thousands of residents and property owners in Midland County and Gladwin County suffered losses.
If you sustained losses in this catastrophic event, consider joining plaintiffs who are fighting for their right to receive compensation from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), the dam operator, and other parties.
By filing a claim now, you can protect yourself from further damage by an injury you suffered as a result of EGLE’s negligence. Our firm does not shy away from tough cases—like those against state agencies and large corporations. We will fight on your behalf and demand that the parties responsible for your damages compensate you for your losses. You pay us nothing out of pocket and nothing up front. Our firm will take its legal fee from your settlement if and when we win your case.
A Midland dam break lawsuit lawyer from Pintas & Mullins Law Firm can begin preparing your case. Call us today for a no-obligation consultation. (800) 794-0444.
A Clear Case of Negligence
A clear connection of truths satisfies the legal requirements for a case of negligence that makes more than one party potentially liable for the damages resulting from the events of May 19.
The dam’s previous operator, Boyce Hydro Power LLC, failed in its management and upkeep of the dam for many years before their license for hydro power generation was revoked and the state assumed control of dam operations in 2018. The failing structural integrity of the dam’s infrastructure caused it to give way after several days of heavy rain, and the crippled dam unleashed most of Wixom Lake’s 1,980 acres of water into the Tittabawassee River, which overflowed its banks.
On the other hand, the State of Michigan entrusts EGLE with a single mission: “to protect Michigan’s environment and public health by managing air, water, land, and energy resources.” The agency thus owed a duty of care to the people of Michigan, one that they failed to uphold. This breach of duty caused the Edenville dam to fail, resulting in damages to the people of Midland County and Gladwin County.
Breach of Duty on the Part of Multiple Parties
Officials from the State of Michigan conceded that the infrastructure of the nearly century-old dam suffered from years of neglect, according to Detroit News. Another publication, Detroit Free Press, reported that for decades, federal regulators ordered changes to the design of the dam, but the state neglected to conduct the repairs of concern.
EGLE took over operations of the Edenville Dam in October 2018 after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) revoked dam operator Boyce Hydro Power LLC’s hydropower generation license, due to its failure to meet federal standards. The FERC’s revocation letter specifically refers to Boyce Hydro Power’s “longstanding failure” to bolster the dam’s spillway capacity to safely pass flood flows.
A little over a month following this revocation, the Department of Environmental Quality inspected the dam, ultimately filing a report that stated the dam was in “fair structural condition.”
Further exacerbating the outcome of May’s heavy rains, EGLE approved raising the water levels of Wixom Lake by eight feet—an effort completed on May 3, only weeks before the dam’s failure.
It may prove worthwhile to monitor any aftermath of flood waters’ comingling with contaminant ponds at Dow’s Midland chemical plant, as reported on May 20 by the Detroit Free Press. Dow reported that no product was released, and the people of Midland were, therefore, not under any threat from contaminants.
A Midland dam break lawsuit lawyer from Pintas & Mullins Law Firm is ready to take legal action on behalf of individuals who suffered losses from the negligence that caused Edenville Dam’s failure. Call us today for a free consultation.
Lawsuits Center on Dam Operator and State Agencies
Multiple parties may bear liability for losses related to the Midland dam failure:
- Dam operator EGLE
- Previous dam operator Boyce Hydro Power
- Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Other parties may bear liability too, so speak with a dam failure attorney for help with your case. The basis for these lawsuits is the failure to properly care for, operate, and perform necessary repairs, leading to the dam’s failure and resulting in injury and loss.
For a free legal consultation with a Midland Dam Break Lawyer serving nationwide, call (800) 794-0444
Did a dam break in Michigan?
The Edenville Dam in Michigan failed on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. Heavy rains forced the water level on Wixom Lake to a height where it began to overtop the dam, which had already commenced with early stages of failure. The 96-year-old, earthen embankment dam eventually gave way, in a landslide manner, and 22 billion gallons of water from the lake raged downstream on the Tittabawassee River toward Edenville and Sanford. The massive water force met with the Sanford Dam, causing it to become overrun a few hours after the Edenville Dam broke.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer officially announced she wants the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) to conduct an investigation into the circumstances and variables that led to the two dams failing, according to The Detroit News. The governor wants their report by Aug. 31, 2020. Whitmer further requested that environmental officials in the area provide recommendations for measures that the state and dam owner can take to prevent future disasters.
The future remains a valid concern. The Edenville and Sanford Dams’ owners also own two other Michigan dams, and there is no reason to believe the company invested any more in them to prevent their failure in similar circumstances. Combined with the fact that climate change continues to bring on heavier rains—and with greater frequency—the situation warrants careful attention.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ordered the dam’s owner to inspect its other Michigan dams—Smallwood, Sanford, and Secord—three days following the water’s recession. The agency also set a May 29 deadline for the owner to figure out the fundamental cause of the Sanford Dam’s overtopping damage.
State officials subsequently reported they found the Smallwood Dam had also sustained damage as the result of the rains and flooding that caused the Edenville Dam to breach. The owner is challenging this finding.
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Why did the Michigan dam fail?
To put things concisely, the Edenville Dam failed because of decades-long lack of maintenance of the nearly century-old dam. The poorly maintained structure finally gave way to heavy rainfall and flooding in the area, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Federal Register published a notice filed by FERC in February 2018, in which the agency outlines several problems with the Edenville Dam over the past couple of decades. Beginning in 1993, FERC had informed Boyce that the dam failed to meet design standards and posed a risk of failing during a heavy rainstorm.
According to the document, the agency discovered that the dam was capable of draining only around 50 percent of the volume of water associated with the most severe weather—or a “probable maximum flood.” FERC ordered the dam operators to construct new spillways to comply with agency requirements of handling a full maximum flood.
Boyce continuously dodged these orders, neglecting to adhere to orders for more than 10 years. The agency claimed it did not have the funds to make required upgrades and repairs. FERC commissioners issued a compliance order in which they described the owner’s/operator’s ignoring of the situation as “appalling.” They warned that this disregard for the vital maintenance issues posed a threat to human life. In 2018, the agency saw the handwriting on the wall and revoked the dam owner’s license to generate power at the Edenville Dam.
According to Boyce, the revenue it lost from dam operations further strangled the company’s ability to pay for the repairs. The dam owners also claim that the State of Michigan pressured Boyce to raise the Wixom Lake water levels in April to keep lakeshore residents happy. Boyce’s statement on this issue further conveys their position that this pressure to keep the lake level high contributed to the dam’s failure.
One must also consider the role that the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) played in the cause of this disaster. When EGLE assumed oversight of the dam, they conducted an inspection and reported it to be in “fair” condition, despite the fact that only one month prior, the FERC found it to be in a highly hazardous state.
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Who owns the dams in Midland Michigan?
Boyce Hydro Power LLC owns the Edenville Dam and the Sanford Dam. Lawsuits that name Boyce Hydro as a defendant claim that their negligence caused the dam’s failure, which, in turn, destroyed thousands of homes and businesses in the Midland area. The FERC revoked the owner’s operator’s license in 2018, citing its repeated failure to act on warnings from FERC that the spillway capacity and lack of maintenance posed a grave threat to the community. Boyce Hydro reportedly lost $6,000 daily following the revocation of their license to generate power with the dam, according to Bridge Magazine.
The men behind Boyce Hydro Power, Lee Mueller, and Michel d’Avenas, are heirs of the multimillionaire who founded the Boy Scouts of America, reports Bridge Magazine. The “Michigan Environment Watch” publication further reveals that in 2005, Mueller and d’Avenas, who are cousins, sold an Illinois property. They aimed to buy a new property so they could defer payment of more than $600,000 in capital gains tax on the sale. They purchased four Midland dams in 2006.
When Boyce Hydro Power neglected to abide by FERC orders regarding the dams’ maintenance, property owners in the area formed the Four Lakes Task Force with an eye toward purchasing the dams from Mueller. They would then tax residents to cover the cost of repairs and controlling the operation of the dams.
The dams failed before the $9.4 million purchase transaction occurred.
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In what town in Michigan did the dam break?
The Edenville Dam rested around one mile north of Edenville, Michigan where the Tittabawassee River and the Tobacco River join. When the dam failed, it flooded Midland County, which includes the city of Midland. The village of Sanford also experienced severe damage, according to the Midland Daily News.
The Washington Post (WP) described the aftermath witnessed by some of the 11,000 residents who were forced to leave the area when the governor declared the Edenville Dam’s breach to be “imminent.” According to WP’s interviews with local residents, many had purchased their properties well aware of typical spring flooding, but not having been apprised that the occurrence of a dangerous incident with the dam was not a matter of “if,” but “when.”
Besides changing the geographical landscape of the area—lowering water levels in the lake and reducing it to more of a small, muddy river—the area’s people suffer damaging effects. Hundreds of homes and businesses took in water, leaving damage to drywall, floors, furniture, and belongings. Power outages by Wednesday after the disaster had affected 5,488 customers in Midland County and 2,871 customers in Gladwin County, reported Midland Daily News. From an economic standpoint, the towns will suffer substantially. Property values will tank with all the damage, especially with the loss of the huge recreational draw of the Wixom Lake, according to concerns expressed by residents interviewed by MLive.com.
What river is flooding in Michigan?
The Tittabawassee River began flooding as a result of the Edenville Dam’s failure. The river crested at a height just over 35 feet, exceeding the flood level by 10 feet, according to The Detroit News, and creating a new flooding record for the body of water.
Besides the dangers and damage from the force of flooding waters, the Midland-based Dow Chemical Co. plant had for decades discharged dioxin, a known carcinogen, into and along the river, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This adds to concerns about the aftermath of this catastrophe. Many of these chemicals rested on the riverbed for years, but the swirling of the May 19 floodwaters possibly displaced the toxic sediment from the Superfund site.
Floodwaters also mixed with contaminant ponds at the Dow Chemical plant, although Dow issued statements conveying that the swirling of the two presented no threat to residents or to the environment. Members of Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter doubt Dow’s reassurances. Christy McGillivray, director of the chapter, directed MLive.com reporters to the chemical company’s dumping of highly toxic and carcinogenic Dioxins into Midland-area waterways, which served as a precursor to the EPA’s declaring the downstream area a Superfund site.
As if Midland area residents and businesses did not have enough to worry about with the sheer devastation of their properties, concerns about the release of new contaminants and stirring up of old dioxins add another layer of worry about residential drinking wells and contamination of homes from floodwaters.
A Midland Dam Break Lawsuit Lawyer Can Help You
When the State of Michigan, the Edenville Dam operator, and its owner failed to maintain a 96-year-old dam to keep local area residents safe, they caused significant damages to the people they were duty-bound to protect. More than 10,000 people left their homes in response to evacuation orders. They huddled together in shelters—a situation that exceeded inconvenience and bordered on unsafe during a pandemic.
Parties involved possessed the means and the opportunity to prevent this catastrophe and all the losses resulting from it. They shirked their duties to the public in the interest of money, and now they owe the people whose lives are uprooted as a result of this greed.
If you suffered losses from the Midland Dam break, you are entitled to receive compensation to help you cover the heavy costs of your losses.
The legal team at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm can fight for your right to recover your losses. Call us today at (800) 794-0444 for a free consultation.