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Potvin’s Illegal Dump

by Published: Oct 3, 2012

In 1996, under suspicious circumstances, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) received an anonymous phone call tipping them off about an illegal dumping action.

The investigations led to Western Concrete Products Company being charged and heavily fined. The clean-up effort ranged from 1998 until its termination in 2002 and cost the company $162,500 in fines.

The anonymous caller informed the DEQ that several hundred gallons of toxic materials had been illegally dumped into an old elevator pit in or around the spring of 1996 by Cadillac’s branch of Western Concrete Products Company. The caller explained that the approximately 20 foot pit had been filled with stains, sealers and petroleum-based liquids in five-gallon pails and 55 gallon drums.

The call led to a full-blown investigation that found Phil Potvin (who is the current 102nd district state representative) and his company Western Concrete Products Company fully culpable for the dumping actions. The documental evidence recovered via The Freedom of Information Act details the discovery, deposition statements from workers and the correspondence between Potvin, his attorney and the DEQ.

In the witness deposition, a former worker states: “There were some 55 gallon drums, 20 I guess there are. And then there were also numerous five-gallon pails. I believe there were some as small as quarts. There may have been some plastic containers.”

The immense amount of products found totaled over 200 gallons of unknown hazardous waste products. Witnesses stated that “strong odors” wafted from the pit, but they couldn’t be sure exactly what the amalgamation of fumes was.

Potvin’s first plan of action was to deny the allegations. After further research showed that the waste indeed was there, his next idea was to “monitor” the waste on site.

As is stated in correspondence between the DEQ referencing a meeting between the DEQ, Potvin and Potvin’s lawyer, it is stated, “He then went on to request permission for his client to leave the material there, in place, and just monitor it.”

The DEQ did not favor these circumstances, nor were they able to acquiesce Potvin’s proposal for cleanup that basically allowed the whole thing to blow over.

Further witness statements from a worker also allege that Potvin’s company may have had more problems, but Potvin’s business practices made it impossible for them to feel comfortable speaking out against him. In a line of questioning, the worker testifying admitted speaking out against Potvin “wouldn’t be good,” and insinuated that the dumping action occurred “because he’s (Potvin) trying to save a buck.” Potvin’s character is also alleged to be one of a vindictive nature.

The worker’s statement continued to say, “I mean, $30,000 is a drop in the bucket (referring to the cleanup fee), you know. There’s a lot of people living around there that aren’t going to be able to drink their water because of this shit if it gets in the ground water.”

The DEQ enforced the cleanup of Western Concrete Products from 1998 until 2002, when it was found that compliance had finally been met. The fines sanctioned totaled $162,500. The Torch tried to contact Potvin several times but was unable to get a comment by time of printing.