City approves highly-opposed shredder installation

Sunday Times Newspapers

MELVINDALE — Despite the public outcry over safety concerns, the city council unanimously approved GLE Scrap Metal’s proposal to install a metal shredder unit in its scrap yard.

Owner Nathan Zack said he wants to do good things for the community and the surrounding areas. He would like to make the $10 million investment into Melvindale, he said, and add additional jobs to the community with the ability to shred vehicles and recycle metals back to General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co.

Zack said the addition could add up to 20 jobs in the city and about 50 jobs to the surrounding area. theshredder, he said, would be no different to any other piece of heavy machinery he operates, except it would be stationary.

The 20-acre scrap yard, at 25434 Outer Drive, sits about 1,000 feet from four different neighborhoods in three separate cities — Melvindale, Lincoln Park and Detroit. Since he began operations in the Melvindale, he said, he has not had any complaints of noise or excess dust and wanted to continue to be a good neighbor to the surrounding communities.

“I don’t want to start causing problems for residents,” Zack said. “I run an honest, good business, and I am going to continue doing that.”

Residents from the three cities voiced their concerns to the City Council and planning commission. Two residents filed proposals to hold a public hearing hours before the council meeting Wednesday.

Corporation Counsel Corinne Galusky said the council was not required to hold either hearing because the proposals were not filed in a timely manner and a public hearing already was held by the Planning Commission.

Residents were given ample time, during the planning commission and council meetings, to present their concerns about the shredder, Galusky said, so the council voted to continue with its vote on the proposal.

The council voted 6-0 to allow GLE to continue with the installation of the shredder.

Residents argued the additional debris and the automotive shredder residue would raise health and environmental concerns for anyone living close to the property. They said the noise and vibration from the machine would outweigh the benefits of the expansion and cause residents to move out of the area.

Melvindale resident Ann Marschner said she is concerned with the potential air, ground and water pollution, but her biggest fear would be the increased risk of fires and explosions.

Paul Connor, a 45-year Melvindale resident, confronted the council Wednesday and said he used to work with shredders and called them dirty, dangerous and loud. He said there was one instance where he witnessed a piece of diamond-plated steel launch 150 feet in the air.

“Those machines belong out in the country and not in the city of Melvindale and so close to its residents,” Connor said. “That neighborhood will be gone. Just watch. All of those people will move out.”

Brian Moench, who is the project manager for GLE’s shredder upgrade, said he and his company, Moench Engineering, have a lot of experience with these shredders and installed the exact model proposed in Rochester, N.Y.

Comparing the new, “state-of-the-art” shredders with those of 30 years ago is unfair because of the advances in the technology, he said, just like comparing any technology from the past with technology made now.

The neighborhoods surrounding the GLE property would not experience noise levels higher than a conversation between two people, Moench said, because the way the machine is placed in the scrap yard, the railroad is used as a noise barrier and noise levels would be about 75 decibels at residential property lines.

The noise created by a passing car produces a noise level about 115 decibels, which makes more noise than the shredder when it is running, he said, and the shredder has a feature that would inject water as needed to keep its air emissions and the generated heat to a minimum.

The planning commission unanimously approved the special usage request and the rezoning of GLE’s property for the use of the shredder Aug. 14 and recommended the council follow suit.

The commission amended the initial proposals to include the company only proceed under the guidelines of the Environmental Protection Agency and other governmental entities. They required GLE to apply for an air monitoring permit, so the EPA can check air quality at least monthly.

There is a certain amount of risk with pollution with this business, the board agreed, but the same risk is prevalent with many businesses within the city limits. The commissioners said businesses, like gas stations, pollute the environment and it’s a necessary risk when a city allows any type of industrial business to operate.

The city was built to support the industrial area, Commissioner Bill Lain said, so the board did not want to stop these kind of businesses from expanding.

“We would be telling most of our tax base to go,” Lain said. “Melvindale was built because of industrial companies, like Ford Motor Company, and it would not be in the best interest of the city to say no. If we tell them, ‘You cannot do business here,’ we might as well go tell the oil refineries, railroads, and Ford to go too.”

The votes, by the planning commission and city council, were the first steps in the completion of the property upgrades, Moench said, but he and Zack still have a long process ahead of them.

He said the votes were still not a guarantee the machine could be built because they still need to file applications with Wayne County, the EPA, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

If the project is approved, Moench said, the machine would be operational in May 2014 due to those application processes and the current wait time for the machine, which he said could be up to 46 weeks.

(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at