Consent decree raises more concerns

Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE – A consent decree regarding Wyandotte Municipal Service’s power plant’s violation of federal emission regulations is still causing concern among residents.

Resident Richard Patrick attended the city council’s Monday meeting to raise some of his concerns about the decree between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the city filed May 18. The decree came after five years of negotiations between the city and the EPA, after the city’s self-reported emissions totals were found to be in violation of Clean Air Act standards.

“This is like a black eye for Wyandotte,” Patrick said, “saying that we’re harming the health of children and people with breathing (issues), it makes me sad.”

Mayor Joeseph Peterson addressed Patrick’s concerns about the violations effect on the health of residents, saying that the violations, for improper coal handling and opacity — too much soot in the air — were self-reported and have been corrected since.

“As far as it being unsafe, the EPA would have closed that power plant right then and there,” Peterson said. “There’s a
margin (for opacity) and they felt the margin was over (the acceptable limits) and that’s why the corrections had to be made.”

The decree stipulated several regulations, included better coal-handling practices, the purchase of five natural gas-powered vehicles, a $112,000 fine, and installation of a baghouse, which uses cloth to filter dust from gasses, and a LoNox burner, which reduces nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide emission.

At the June 6 council meeting, Municipal Services General Manager Melanie McCoy told the council the civil penalty, the baghouse installation, and the purchase of three of the required five natural gas vehicles were the only stipulations WMS had yet to complete.

Another of Patrick’s concerns, also addressed in a letter to council, centered on whether McCoy should have signed the decree before it was approved by the city council. The decree was signed before being approved by the council June 6.

City Attorney William Look said the decree was signed before council approved it because of confusion between Look and Karl Karg, the Chicago-based attorney hired to represent Municipal Services in the litigation. McCoy brought the consent decree before the city council during an executive session in March and signed it after Karg directed her to, Look said, adding that Look should have asked her whether she was seeking council approval at the executive session before she had signed the decree.

Patrick also raised concerns that many residents were uninformed about the decree and its implications, including how the city intends to pay for a $10 million baghouse for the power plant required by the decree. The baghouse, which uses cloth to filter dust from gasses, must be installed within three years. He requested a town hall meeting to answer resident’s questions about the decree.

Councilors did not address the idea at the meeting but announced they will require the Municipal Services Commission to supply a monthly report to the council regarding its progress in fulfilling the other requirements of the decree. They also said they will post notices in newspapers and on their cable access channel with addresses where residents can send questions and concerns about the consent decree to the council and the EPA.