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Judge revises restraining order against mining company, allowing mining to resume

The Vella Pit mine northeast of Ann Arbor, operated by Mid Michigan Materials. Sand and gravel used in construction are mined at the pit.
Michael Watts
Michigan Radio
The Vella Pit mine northeast of Ann Arbor, operated by Mid Michigan Materials. Sand and gravel used in construction projects are mined at the pit.

A Washtenaw County judge has revised a temporary restraining order against Mid Michigan Materials, allowing the company to resume mining operations at an Ann Arbor-area mine with certain restrictions.

The revision allows Mid Michigan Materials to continue its operations at the Vella Pit mine northeast of Ann Arbor, as long as the company complies with a conditional use permit, Ann Arbor Township ordinances, and the development agreement with the township.

The township alleges that Mid Michigan Materials was not complying with those three things in the months leading up to a lawsuit that they filed against the company.

The lawsuit was filed in September after residents reported numerous problems with the mine's operations, including the drying up of 10 residential wells. Judge Timothy Connors then granted the original restraining order, which halted operations at the mine completely, on October 10.

The revised restraining order outlines a multiphase process to get Mid Michigan Materials in compliance with their conditional use permit. Under the order, when the company can demonstrate to the township that the local aquifer has recovered, they can then provide a plan to the township to operate a closed-loop system for washing mined materials that does not deplete the aquifer or discharge sediment into nearby waterways.

John Sellek is the spokesperson for Mid Michigan Materials. He said in a statement that the company is grateful for the cooperation extended by the township and that they look forward to finding a long-term arrangement that works for everyone.

"The agreement reflected in the new court order allows us to resume serving our customers’ construction needs. ... The agreement also allows us to use water already in our ponds to rinse dirt from newly mined aggregate materials. No water will be discharged from the site and no net loss of groundwater will take place," the statement said.

Sellek added that Mid Michigan Materials will also continue with their hydrological study of the area surrounding the mine to continue gathering data and developing a plan that will not deplete the aquifer.

Amy Olszewski lives near the mine. She said she is relieved to know that Mid Michigan Materials wants to comply with the conditions in the revised restraining order.

"It's wonderful to be able to turn on my faucet and not have to think, 'Is this the day my water goes?' I've got water. The most urgent issue has been addressed through this temporary restraining order," Olszewski said.

This order does not close the lawsuit against Mid Michigan Materials. Residents said noise pollution from trucks entering and exiting the mine, as well as damages they said have already been done to surrounding waterways like Fleming Creek and Massey Lake, are still major concerns.

Olszewski said that residents are relieved but still anxious: "We have a lawsuit still pending with Mid Michigan Materials, and I'm not sure how that will be resolved yet. It would be wonderful if we could revisit the original conditional use permit and just make sure that our environment and our water is protected."

Beth Weiler is a newsroom intern covering the environment.
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