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Department of Environmental Quality v. Worth Township

ELR Citation: 42 ELR 20112
Nos. No. 14180, (Mich., 05/17/2012)

The Michigan Supreme Court held that under the state's Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA), a municipality can be held responsible for, and required to prevent, a discharge of raw sewage that originates within its borders, even when the raw sewage is discharged by a private party and not directly discharged by the municipality itself. The case arose after the state's environmental department filed suit against a township for the contamination of surface waters within and surrounding its borders, including Lake Huron and several of its tributaries. It sought an injunction to compel the township to prevent the discharge of raw sewage into the waters of the state. The township argued that neither the courts nor the state agency has the authority to hold a township liable for the discharge of raw sewage from private residences into state waters. But the NREPA creates a presumption that a municipality is in violation of NREPA when a discharge originates within its boundaries, irrespective of who actually caused the discharge. In addition, a township is within the NREPA's definition of municipality. Accordingly, a township can be held responsible as a municipality under the statute.