Local Toxic Waste Suit Reaches Top Court

January 10, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS—A local businessman has taken his complaint about the alleged dumping of toxic materials to the land’s highest court.

PROTO-Cam Inc. general manager William Tingley III has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider whether the federal district court for the Western District of Michigan erred in dismissing his case against the developers, supporters and financial backers who turned the former Berkey and Gay furniture factory into The Boardwalk, a residential, commercial and office development at 940 Monroe NW.

Tingley, who was joined in the suit by his father William Q. Tingley, has also asked the nation’s top jurists to determine whether the federal trial judge was wrong when he ruled that Tingley couldn’t bring the case forward without an attorney.

“This case began because we were outraged that the public health of Grand Rapids’ residents was endangered by the recklessness of the builders who were developing a property next door to us,” said Tingley in a statement.

“But an even more basic issue for all Americans is now involved: Whether any of us has the right to sue in federal court without spending tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers. I hope the Supreme Court will affirm that right, no matter what happens on the hazardous waste case,” he added.

The federal trial court dismissed Tingley’s suit in June 2003 and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision last September.

The complaint filed with the Supreme Court accuses 940 Monroe LLC, headed by Thomas Beckering, Fifth Third Bankcorp and former Grand Rapids Mayor John Logie with violating the federal Superfund toxic waste cleanup law by allegedly removing 26,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil from the construction site and then transporting it to the former Monroe Avenue Filtration Plant at 1430 Monroe NW.

In the suit, the Tingleys also accuse the defendants of violating the False Claims Act by concealing the release of toxic chemicals.

Soil sampling done at the filtration plant by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality last year, though, revealed the soil there was different from the samples taken from The Boardwalk.    

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