Deal reached over Detroit municipal incinerator odors

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News

Detroit — For the long-suffering neighbors of the massive incinerator that sits near the interchange of Interstates 75 and 94, some relief from the bothersome odors the plant produces may be on the way.

Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality and Attorney General Bill Schuette announced Tuesday they have reached a settlement with the two private companies operating what is the country's largest municipal incinerator. That agreement seeks to end the "chronic odors" released from the plant that drift into nearby residential areas.

"I am confident Detroit has a better, brighter future ahead as we continue to see economic improvement in the Motor City," Schuette said in a statement released Tuesday. "Investing in Detroit is important, but we must also prioritize the quality of life of Detroit families and business owners."

Since they took over operation of the incinerator in 2010, Michigan Waste Energy Inc. and Detroit Renewable Power LLC have regular complaints from residents related to the smells from the plant's emissions. Those complaints have jumped from 16 in 2009 to 170 so far in 2014.

"DRP and MDEQ have worked collaboratively for more than a year to evaluate and address the challenge of odors from the DRP facility," Dave Beaven, of Detroit Renewable Power said in a statement.

"The Consent Judgment signed by MDEQ and DRP yesterday addresses this challenge with a clear and achievable schedule of milestones. DRP is confident that, continuing to work closely with MDEQ, the company will meet fully the requirements of the Consent Judgment and resolve public concerns over this issue," Beaven said.

He said the DRP "remains committed to the long-term civic, environmental, and economic health of Detroit and we believe that the plans outlined in the Consent Judgment provide a strong foundation for the future."

Local citizens groups have pushed for years for the City of Detroit to move away from incineration toward more environmentally friendly means of waste disposal.

"The incinerator is a major contributor of ozone, and ozone is a major contributor to asthma," said Ahmina Maxey, an outreach coordinator with Zero Waste Detroit, last year. "Also, the incinerator is stinking up the neighborhoods around it."

According to the terms of the new settlement, Michigan Waste Energy inc. and Detroit Renewable Power LLC will:

■ "Re-engineer the facility" over the next two years, adding a new air duct system that will route the odors into the incinerator for "destruction."

■Pay a $350,000 fine for past odor violations. That money will go into the state's general fund.

■Pay fines of as much as $5,000 a day for future violations of the Michigan Air Pollution Control law.

"The Snyder administration has demonstrated its strong commitment to supporting Michigan's economic recovery," DEQ Director Dan Wyant said. "At the same time, we also have demonstrated our commitment to enforcing environmental laws and protecting Michigan communities."

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