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Edenville dam owners liable for $119 million in damages

LANSING – Yesterday, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan awarded the State a monetary judgement against Lee Mueller, whose business owned and operated the Edenville Dam and is responsible for the 2020 catastrophe.

The judgment is in the amount of $119,825,000, announced Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. The Department of Attorney General filed the motion seeking judgement on behalf of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“The dam’s ownership completely disregarded imminent threats to the safety and integrity of the dam, and as the State clearly demonstrated before the Court, Lee Meuller and his business were responsible for the disaster that struck Edenville and other area communities,” said Nessel. “This nearly $120 million judgement is important, both as a measure of accountability to the community Mueller devastated and as a deterrent to other owners of critical infrastructure.”

“The failures of the Edenville and Sanford Dams caused impacts that were devastating, but avoidable,” said Phil Roos, EGLE director. “The courts have rightly declared that owners of critical infrastructure must not put their own interests ahead of the safety of Michiganders, our environment, or our natural resources. EGLE remains committed to supporting the community through permitting replacement structures as it rebuilds.”

The judgement concludes the State’s civil enforcement action against Lee Mueller and his companies that owned and operated the Edenville Dam, which has been ongoing since June 2020. The east embankment of the dam failed on May 19, 2020, sending a surge of water downstream that resulted in catastrophe for the surrounding communities.

The Court ruled in February that Mueller himself was responsible for the failure, before ruling in October that his company, Boyce Hydro, was also responsible. In that ruling, the Court held the State had “brought sufficient evidence to show that Defendants knew of its dam’s vulnerability and that Defendants did not make EGLE aware of that vulnerability. Defendants do not dispute either assertion.”

A link to the motion for summary judgment can be found here. 
A link to the order granting summary judgment can be found here. 
A link to the motion for default judgment can be found here. 
A link to yesterday’s order of monetary damages can be found here. 

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