MDEQ files suit against Michigan Sugar for violations - WNEM TV 5

MDEQ files suit against Michigan Sugar for violations

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The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has filed a lawsuit against Michigan Sugar citing violations of the state’s odor nuisance rule and storm water requirements.

The MDEQ confirmed the suit on Sept. 1, claiming the two parties have negotiated unsuccessfully for years about the issues.

MDEQ Public Information Officer Melody Kindraka issued a statement, saying in part:

“After several years of unsuccessful negotiations between the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Michigan Sugar to resolve numerous violations of the state's odor nuisance rule and violations of the storm water requirements in the company's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, the MDEQ filed a lawsuit to compel Michigan Sugar to address these long standing violations at their Bay City operations. “

TV5 reached out to Michigan Sugar, and received this statement from CEO Mark Flegenheimer:

“It’s deeply troubling that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality chose to ignore our company’s record investments in cutting-edge new technology, our good faith negotiations, and our demonstrated commitment to the community we have called home for more than a century. Instead of a cooperative approach that could create a win-win for the Bay City community, 1,100 Michigan Sugar farm families and hundreds of Bay City employees of our company, the MDEQ has adopted a confrontational stance that threatens our ability to work together.

The fact is, Michigan Sugar Company has invested millions of dollars in Bay City in recent years to install the latest technology available in our industry. These investments were specifically designed to ensure that we can continue to boost the economy and create jobs in Bay City, while minimizing our environmental impact. The investments include a centrifuge system that reduces organic matter leaving the factory, a new process that breaks down odors within our holding ponds, and beyond – all examples of industry-leading innovation.

Michigan Sugar is proud of our commitment to the environment and being a good neighbor, strong community partner and job provider, which is why this lawsuit filed by the MDEQ is disappointing.”

The MDEQ reports it has received more than 1,600 odor complaints since 2015, resulting in 26 odor rule violations.

The department also said Michigan Sugar has been cited three times since 2015 for violations of the NPDES permit.

The TV5 I-Team investigated the issue last year and learned the federal Environmental Protection Agency said hundreds of violations were issued to Michigan Sugar for being out of compliance with both the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.  >>Read our I-Team Report by clicking here<<

"It smells like rotten feet," said Norman Roth, resident.

But not everyone agrees with the lawsuit.

"I don't think it's right," said Becky Wenzel, resident.

She doesn't have a problem with the sugar company.

"They do what they can, but they also supply sugar to the stores that we consume," Wenzel said.

She doesn't believe Michigan Sugar should face fines, which could total hundreds of thousands of dollars if not more.

"They supply many jobs to many of our people. If they lose their jobs because of all this stuff being paid out, all these fines being paid out, what's that going to do to the economy now," Wenzel said.

Roth said the company should have the smell under control.

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