Keweenaw letter targets odor

County Board votes to send official correspondence to EGLE on Neuvokas

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette The Keweenaw County Board on Wednesday approved a letter to EGLE regarding the Neuvokas company, in Ahmeek. Shown, from left to right, Board Vice Chairman Del Rajala, Commissioner Jim Vivian, Chairman Don Piche, commissioners Bob DeMarois and Randy Eckloff. Eckloff abstained from voting on the motion.

EAGLE RIVER — The Keweenaw County Board on Wednesday reviewed a letter drafted by county attorney Chuck Miller last month to governmental authorities regarding an Ahmeek manufacturer.

At the regular March meeting, the Board approved Miller to write a letter to Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy and other governmental officials regarding the need for EGLE to resolve ongoing odor concerns in a timely manner from the operation of Neuvokas (Gator Bar). This request for a letter to be written came from the Planning Commission.

At the March meeting, Erik Kiilunen, Neuvokas CEO, and Environmental Quality Analyst Joseph Scanlan of EGLE Air Quality Division were present, along with several residents near the Gator Bar plant. Among much discussion, both Kiilunen and Scanlan said that there are ongoing negotiations and that there is a nondisclosure agreement about those negotiations and no resolution has yet been found.

There have been 189 complaints since January 2021 and EGLE has taken escalated enforcement action as of July 2023.

The four-page letter, addressed to Annette Switzer, director of Air Quality Division at EGLE, requests that agency take immediate action to prevent Neuvokas from continuing to cause offensive odors to drift into adjacent residential areas, by obtaining a consent order requiring the company to promptly purchase and install equipment that will eliminate the odors or by referring the matter to the Michigan Attorney General for commencement of civil litigation aimed at closing the facility.

Describing Neuvokas’ emissions as “odors,” the letter says, fails to convey the stench of the emissions and the extent of the problems they are causing.

“Further,” the letter continues, “it is not evident that these emissions are mere nuisances having no effect on human health, as EGLE seems to be assuming,” adding that the long-term effects on local residents being exposed to the emissions on a regular basis merits further investigation by EGLE.

Neuvokas is a composite rebar manufacturer, which employs a DCPD, or dicyclopentadiene, resin system.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that the health effects associated with exposure to DCPD include mild eye, skin and respiratory irritation, as well as renal and possible pulmonary damage.

Board Vice Chairman Del Rajala made the motion to authorize sending the letter to state officials, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and Phillip Roos, director of EGLE, supported by Commissioner Bob DeMarois, with Commissioner Randy Eckloff abstaining. The motion carried and the letter will be sent this week.


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