Council approves gasification plant

‘If we go forward and approve this lease tonight, I believe it would be like sticking a dagger in all our citizens’ hearts.’
— Councilman Daniel Galeski

Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE — After hearing resident concerns about a proposed alternative energy plant, City Council members promised to address them in the company’s land lease.

Council members voted Monday to approve the 15-year land lease with Environmental Generation Technology Advisor LLC. The company plans to run a gasification plant at Eighth and Central.

The resolution passed with four votes after the council added provisions denying railroad access in the proposed site plans to the company and specifying quality control provisions deemed satisfactory by the city. Councilmen Daniel Galeski and Leonard Sabuda voted against moving forward with the project.

Galeski voiced concerns that the project was not properly researched after residents asked for more data on the project at a public hearing held during the meeting.

“When we talk about respect for our citizens and answering the what ifs, I think we should get the answers before we approve this lease,” he said. “If we go forward and approve this lease tonight, I believe it would be like sticking a dagger in all our citizens’ hearts.”

The council and representatives from EGTA responded to resident questions about the project, including many about the potential harm to the environment.

Residents Trevor and Kimberly Cole said they were concerned as parents that the plant, which will gasify refuse-derived fuel pellets, may let off gases from chemicals contained in the pellets, or that the pellets may be made of industrial waste instead of the promised municipal solid waste, which is taken from homes and comprises paper, grass clippings and textiles.

“We came here tonight as concerned parents,” Kimberly Cole said. “We want to make sure this stays a clean environment for our children and for all the children of Wyandotte.”

Her husband asked for percentages of the chemical composition of the pellets, like those the city provides for water pollutants.

“We need to get down to the specifics,” Trevor Cole said. “This is our community and we have the right to know these answers.”

City Engineer Mark Kowalewski reiterated that the pellets would be made only of municipal solid waste taken from homes.

Technology for the new facility project is subject to extensive regulations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and will be tested in Plymouth before it comes to Wyandotte.

Quality control stipulations will be added to the fuel source contract, which along with the environmental indemnity agreement and financing commitment will be reviewed by the council for approval by June. Andreasen said he could provide data on the percentages of the composition of the pellets.

Resident Brian Murphy raised concerns about the noise level of the plant. He said he lives near the BASF Corp. facility on Biddle Avenue and is disturbed by the noise level at night.

Sam Jawad, of R2 Automation, which manufactures the gasification technology used by the proposed plant, said the EPA testing also will cover decibel level.

Ed McArtle, who volunteers as the conservation chair of the Southeast Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club, said he would be “very wary” of the project.

Though he has not worked with gasification, he compared the project to a Detroit incinerator the group is working to close. He said the incinerator also uses refuse derived fuel.

“It’s not a pretty sight,” McArtle said. “I don’t believe it can be very well controlled.”

McArtle also said the refuse-derived fuel is made of materials that usually are recycled, which saves more energy than gasification.

Kowalewski read from the lease agreement, which stipulated that the plant must use the best available technology at its own expense to avoid pollution, nuisance and odor.

“That’s the best you can ask for in any lease,” Kowalewski said.