Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge Residents Speak Out at Polar Public Hearing
The MDEQ has extended the public comment period for an additional week for the proposed Polar Environmental permit.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will continue to take public comments through Oct. 5 as it considers a permit for Polar Environmental Service Corp.
Polar, which is located at 707 E. Lewiston in Ferndale, handles the disposal and recycling of nonhazardous waste oil and wastewater. The MDEQ began taking a closer look at the facility and required it to apply for a permit after a Dec. 2, 2011 steam release that concerned hundreds of area residents.
Public comment period extended
About 25 people were in attendance on Friday evening when the MDEQ held a public hearing on the permit. The hearing, held at Ferndale High School, gave residents a chance to ask questions of MDEQ representatives - including the inspector assigned to Polar - and have their comments included on the public record.
The department will take all comments into consideration and also respond to the comments in writing when it issues a decision.
Polar is seeking a permit for the operation of a treatment, storage, and disposal facility for waste oils, water, and coolants that are not hazardous waste.
The public comment period opened Aug. 24 and was scheduled to close after the public hearing Sept. 27, however due to concerns expressed regarding residents who had difficulty accessing the online comment form, MDEQ officials decided to extend the comment period for an additional week.
Comments were 'substantial'
Vince Hellwig, who is the decision-maker on the permit, said residents at the public hearing had some significant concerns that the MDEQ will be considering. He said a decision on the permit could take several weeks.
"I don't always hear comments so substantial," he said. "We will consider them."
Sherry Ball, city manager for Pleasant Ridge, attended the meeting and expressed concerns over how the MDEQ has handled the facility in the past.
"At the very least I think the MDEQ needs to assure the residents of Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge that there will be inspections done on a regular basis," she said, asking that the inspections be at least monthly for the first year.
Jason Krzysiak, a Pleasant Ridge city commissioner, said he has spoken with representatives from Polar and they have been very helpful however he has concerns about the strong odor and how it effects the community.
"Although I do believe that Michigan law entitles Polar to enact this process on their facility ... as a father and resident and elected official in the city of Pleasant Ridge I would ask that you deny the permit before you," he said.
Pleasant Ridge resident Jeanne Ruzzin said she has lived in the area for the last 22 years and first noticed a smell from Polar at least 10 years ago.
"I would like to know what proof you have that this is not going to make us sick later," she said.
Residents also expressed concerns over the smell from Polar resembling the smell of natural gas. Ferndale Fire Chief Kevin Sullivan spoke at the hearing about the same concern and said there have been natural gas leak incidents where residents had assumed the smell was from Polar.
"People do get used to this odor and stop calling us," he said.
Ferndale City Manager April Lynch said after the meeting that the city will keep residents updated on the status of the permit.
You can read more about the Polar draft permit and its conditions, which include an Odor Management Plan, at this fact sheet provided by the MDEQ.
Polar report: Steam release was 'not a threat'
A report released by Polar in February said the steam release last year was “not a threat to the health of the public” and should not happen again with new safeguards put in place.
The incident occurred after an employee at the facility forgot to turn off the heat in a tank that was heating oil, and the result was an odor that spread through north Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, Berkley and Royal Oak.
Chris Ethridge, environmental manager with the DEQ's air quality division, said in January that testing done by the state could not address exactly what type of emissions were released because they were not on site to measure it.
Following the incident, the DEQ cited Polar and notified the company that it would need to apply for a permit. Polar had been operating under an exemption, Ethridge said, but it now needs a permit “based on the fact that they overheated some of this oil and could no longer meet criteria for that exemption.”
In addition to setting emission limits, the permit will help the DEQ ensure compliance at the facility, he said.
How to submit comments
Residents have until Oct. 5 to submit comments. Written comments may be sent to the following address (postmarked by Oct. 5):
Ms. Mary Ann Dolehanty
Permit Section Supervisor, MDEQ, AQD
P.O. Box 30260, Lansing, Michigan, 48909-7760.
All web-based responses should be directed here (click on “submit comment” under the Polar Environmental Service Corporation; Permit to Install No. 5-12 listing).
You can also email comments to DEQ-AQD-PTIPublicComments@michigan.gov.