May 26, 2014 at 11:03 pm

Uni-Dig loses appeal over compost facility's smell

Clinton Township — After two failed appeals, an area recycling facility must comply with a court order by Monday to scale back its composting operation, blamed for fetid fumes officials say can be smelled for miles during summer months.

Lawrence Dloski, the attorney representing Clinton Township, said Uni-Dig filed appeals and stays with the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court. Both have been denied, with the most recent ruling coming May 14 from the Supreme Court.

In January, Uni-Dig was ordered by the Macomb County Circuit Court to reduce its compost pile from more than 60,000 to 20,000 cubic yards and its outside storage to seven acres of the 14-acre site on Quinn Road east of Gratiot.

The township filed a lawsuit in 2012 alleging the company’s compost heap violates township zoning laws and is a public nuisance.

“The township assumes that they are working to come in compliance,” Dloski said.

The law firm of Gaëtan Gerville-Réache, representing Uni-Dig, declined to comment last week.

“If they don’t comply, they could be fined and or (the owners) could go to jail,” said Robert Cannon, Clinton Township supervisor.

Yvonne Bibbs, a life-long township resident who lives in the neighborhood near the facility, said the stench is still an issue, and she doesn’t look forward to hot summer months.

“It is horrible,” Bibbs said. “You have this foul smell. It is bad.”

Owners Ronald and Dolores Michaels previously owned King of the Wind Farm, an organic composting operation and horse farm in Macomb Township. But, neighbors complained about the odor and started a decade-long legal battle. After the composting operation was shut down in 2004, the owners began bringing compostable material to Uni-Dig.

Cannon said once the small compost pile at Uni-Dig grew, it created a smell that offended area residents and businesses. There’s a restaurant, gas station Salvation Army store and shopping plaza with a Target, Office Max and Sports Authority, among other stores nearby.

“Any time the wind blew or any time anyone disturbed the pile, it caused an extreme, noxious odor for miles,” Cannon said.

In 2011, the township cited the business for violating its nuisance odor ordinance.

Cannon said Uni-dig did spray an odor-masking chemical on the compost pile and paid for a person to be on-call to handle complaints, but such efforts failed.

“They have been outstanding business people in our community for quite some time,” Cannon said. “We wished they could have found a way to resolve the issue without us having to take it to court, but we had to protect residents from this odor. ... It is like being at a garbage dump or maybe even worse.”
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