What's worse is the MDEQ may give the Russian Steel Company the licence to do it legally
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) is about to allow one of metro Detroit’s biggest polluter’s to release even more toxins into the atmosphere. The steel plant, Severstal Dearborn, is located in Michigan’s most polluted zip code.
The 48217 zip code is home to some of the worst environmental offenders in the country, so to label Severstal one of the biggest polluters in this area means it’s bad; really, really bad. Now the MDEQ wants to give Severstal a permit to increase its lead emissions more than 725 times its current levels.
The MDEQ has already proven it is a sham agency in its handling of pet coke piles stored along the Detroit riverfront. In justifying the release of even more toxins into the air MDEQ and Severstal officials claim that “it isn’t an increase in pollutants…it’s what’s already been spewing from the plant for years.”
Apparently MDEQ allowed an emissions permit in 2006 based on data that was “limited, incomplete and, as the current emissions test data have revealed, not as representative of Severstal’s operations as anticipated,” the MDEQ states in seeking the permit revision. Severstal apparently used broken equipment when applying for the permit in 2006 and the MDEQ was aware of it, but didn’t seem to care.
Rather than discussing repercussions for the under reporting of pollutants for 8 years, the MDEQ is giving Severstal a pass and helping them fix it. And all of those “public hearings” the MDEQ holds each time it considers a permit are nothing more than a sideshow. According to Vince Hellwig, chief of the MDEQ’s Air Quality Division, “Citizens may object to it, but that’s not something we consider on whether to issue or deny the permit.” Hellwig continued, “There would have to be a ‘major reason’ to deny the permit change and in Severstal’s case there is no imminent hazard there.”
The emissions from Severstal’s plant are potentially harmful:
- Fine dust particles 10 microns or smaller, PM-10, can affect breathing, damage lungs and cause cancer or premature death, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
- Lead air pollution can harm every system in the body, particularly targeting the nervous system. It can also lead to severe brain and kidney damage.
- Chronic, long-term exposure to high levels of manganese by inhalation in humans may result in central nervous system effects, the EPA states.
- Volatile organic compounds can cause problems ranging from eye, nose and throat irritation; headaches; loss of coordination and nausea; up to damage to the liver, kidney and central nervous system, according to the EPA. Some VOCs are known to cause cancer in humans.
- Breathing carbon monoxide can cause headache, dizziness, vomiting and nausea.
Source: Detroit Free Press
Still, Hellwig maintains that the “levels emitted by Severstal are not a public health concern.”
Previous Enforcement Actions Against Severstal
Severstal, a Russian company, manufactures flat-rolled carbon steel products. The EPA, after a 90-day review of emissions from a smokestack in 2012, “showed 1,660 violations of state and federal regulations for smoke opacity, a measure of particle levels in the smoke.” This resulted in “36 informal enforcement actions…in the past five years and one formal enforcement action last year.”
MDEQ readily admits that “it does not set allowable air pollution emissions levels.” According to Hellwig, “The applicant comes in with an emission limit and we determine whether it’s protective of public health.” MDEQ has proven time and time again that protection of public health is not its main concern. It is an agency designed to allow businesses to destroy the environment while pretending to care about the residents of Michigan.