LYON TOWNSHIP, Mich. – A metal recycling company accused by state and federal regulators of polluting the air, now faces a civil lawsuit in Wayne County.
More than 110 residents in Wayne and Oakland counties are charging that Continental Aluminum Co. repeatedly polluted their communities with toxic smoke and are suing for damages.
The civil lawsuit, filed in Wayne County Circuit Court, alleges that Continental knowingly released chlorine, hydrogen chloride and hydrogen fluoride through its stacks at both locations and city and township residents have suffered heart and lung damage due to company emissions. It also claims that the company operated in violation of Wayne County permits.
“Its a tragic case,” said Gerald E. Thurswell, a Southfield attorney representing the residents. “This company knew about their pollution and continually looked the other way.”
Steven C. Nadeau, a Detroit attorney representing Continental said “the company denies the allegations about the harmful emissions.”
“We fully expect the evidence will support the company’s view,” Nadeau told The Detroit News.
In August, the township cited Continental 83 times for violating its local odor ordinance. The penalties could total $41,500.
In March, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality ordered Continental to stop high emissions of chlorine and hydrogen chloride or face fines and possible criminal charges.
In May, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency named the company to its “significant violators list,” which can lead to daily fines of up to $27,500 and criminal charges for deliberate pollution.
“The situation certainly hasn’t gotten any better,” said Harold Grove, a Lyon Township resident and one of the lawsuits plaintiffs. “We still hear their noise through the night and smell their odors.”
Lyon Township lured Continental from Detroit – 35 miles to the southeast – with help from a $5.5-million tax-exempt bond issue for years ago.
Continental melts down scrap aluminum into ingots for Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and their parts suppliers.
Continental has until October to respond to the suit. No trial date has been set.