The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, together with two environmental organizations, are suing an Elk Rapids fruit processor. The claim the company is in violation of both state law and the federal Clean Water Act.
Burnette Foods’ fruit processing operation in Elk Rapids had been cited by the state multiple times over the past four years for spraying too much wastewater onto the surrounding land, in at least one instance witnessed by a state inspector causing it to run off into surrounding wetlands and, ultimately, into nearby Spencer Creek and Elk Lake.
The state found in 2021 that wastewater released by the plant contained high levels of E. coli, even after Burnette officials insisted there was “no potential” for the harmful bacteria to be spread by its spray irrigation system. The state also found that the release of high-strength wastewater had likely caused high levels of arsenic in a nearby wetland.
Burnette has been cited for hundreds of violations of the Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act and of the facility’s groundwater permit since 2016. It had also been and ordered to implement a corrective action plan.