Flint residents voice frustrations over asphalt plant

Some Flint residents and environmental groups are voicing their frustrations after a controversial asphalt plant opened last week in Genesee Township.
Published: Apr. 17, 2023 at 5:24 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

FLINT, Mich. (WNEM) - Some Flint residents and environmental groups are voicing their frustrations after a controversial asphalt plant opened last week in Genesee Township.

“These are human lives that are gonna be disrupted,” board chair of the St. Francis Prayer Center in Genesee Township Ted Zahrfeld said.

Zahrfeld said he is worried about the impact of the newly operational Ajax asphalt plant off Carpenter Road, right across from Flint city limits. He and some Flint residents and environmental groups are frustrated that the company received an air permit from the state to begin production.

Related: EGLE approves Ajax asphalt plant air permits

“Right across the street from St. Francis Prayer Center and also from the Ajax plant is one of the largest public housing complexes there is. So, these people are going to be exposed to a lot of pollutants that plant is going to be putting out,” Zahrfeld said.

The group said many of the 400 families that live in the area already suffer from chronic health problems such as asthma due to the concentration of industrial facilities in the vicinity. Attorneys for the group asked a circuit court judge to make the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) redo the Ajax permit. They argued the agency violated the Clean Air Act and the state’s air quality rules by failing to account for the plant’s full potential emissions, relying on data from monitors positioned miles away from Flint.

Related: Residents voice concerns over proposed asphalt plant

“What they did is they use statistics and readings from 50 to 100 miles away. They use them from Lansing and from Grand Rapids and said they were comparable to here. Well, that’s ludicrous. It’s just plain bad judgment,” Zahrfeld said.

TV5 reached out to EGLE, and in a statement, the department said, “EGLE is aware the Ajax facility started operations and was on site last week where no violations were observed. The agency is committed to ensuring the plant meets or exceeds all conditions in their permit.”

Related: Groups file lawsuit against EGLE for approving proposed asphalt plant air permit

Opponents are asking EGLE to put a pause on the plant and study the area that’s going to be affected.

“It seems like they’re more interested in protecting industries’ rights above the plant. And I won’t deny that. But I think EGLE has a responsibility to protect public health and that is just not happening,” Zahrfeld said.

Related: Redevelopment plan in the works for Flint neighborhood

Mona Munroe-Younis, executive director of the Environmental Transformation Movement of Flint, said in a press release, “The price of Michigan’s asphalt should not be more cancer, asthma, and respiratory illnesses in a community that can least afford to deal with it. EGLE ought to be ashamed for prioritizing industry profits over our right to breathe clean air.”

The lawsuit to try to force the state to re-do the air permit was filed by attorneys for Earthjustice and the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center.

Subscribe to the TV5 newsletter and receive the latest local news and weather straight to your email every day.