Severstal Dearborn, a steel plant that’s one of metro Detroit’s biggest polluters, would be allowed to release much higher volumes of toxins into the atmosphere — in some cases, hundreds of times more — in a permit revision proposed by the state Department of Environmental Quality.
The changes, revising a 2006 emissions permit, would approve releasing more than 725 times more lead into the air from one portion of Severstal’s plant.
Permitted lead releases from other Severstal operations would also increase hundreds of times over, as would releases of the metal manganese.
Carbon monoxide emissions would be approved to more than double; allowed volatile organic compounds releases would rise sharply; and allowances for PM10 or fine dust emissions would rise between two and five times from the permitted levels eight years ago.
But DEQ and Severstal officials say it’s not an increase in pollutants — it’s what’s already been spewing from the plant for years.
Severstal’s 2006 emissions permit was based on data that was “limited, incomplete and, as the current emissions test data have revealed, not as representative of Severstal’s operations as anticipated,” the DEQ states in public documents seeking the permit revision.
“They had tested previously, but we questioned the validity of some of those results because their equipment was in disrepair,” said Vince Hellwig, chief of the DEQ’s Air Quality Division.
“The permit today is based on current testing, after the repairs have been made.”
For residents nearby, surrounded by refineries and heavy industry in one of Michigan’s most polluted areas — the 48217 ZIP code, where the area’s toxicity score from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is 45 times that of the statewide average — the proposed permit change and the missed pollution in 2006 aren’t welcome news.
“The fallout here is every day,” said Patricia Guziak, 58, a resident of Dora Street in Melvindale, less than a mile from Severstal’s plant and several others, including only being a few blocks from the large Marathon oil refinery.
“It has ruined the paint on my car. In the summertime, I’m sweeping up black dust every day. Dust is dust, but this is not normal. And the stink — you’ll get smells so bad you can’t sit on the porch.”
Glad I'm up river!