LYON TOWNSHIP, Mich – An Oakland County recycling company under scrutiny for allegedly releasing toxic smoke has been placed on a federal pollution list.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency named Continental Aluminum Inc. to its “significant violators list,” which can lead to daily fines of up to $27,500 and criminal charges for deliberate pollution, The Detroit News reported Wednesday.
“You have to be a major source of toxic pollutants to make this list,” said Jeffrey L. Gahris of the EPA’s Chicago office. “It does tend to get a company’s attention.”
“It’s a fairly routine step when negotiating matters,” said William A. Wichers II, Continental’s lawyer. “At any given time, there are 60 or 80 companies in Michigan on that list.”
Continental Aluminum moved to rural Lyon Township, about 40 miles west-northwest of Detroit from Detroit two years ago.
Soon after, neighbors began reporting nausea, breathing disorders and other ailments that they believe are tied to company emissions, the News said.
Continental melts down scrap metal for Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and their parts suppliers.
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials have issued at least four state pollution violations against Continental this year.
In March, state regulators sent notice that the company must stop high emissions of chlorine and hydrogen chloride or face fines and possible criminal charges.
Melting aluminum typically produces chlorine, hydrogen chloride and hydrogen fluoride, which pose health hazards.
In 1997, Continental paid $50,000 to Wayne County to settle allegations of persistent air pollution.
Department of Environmental Quality officials have called a May 16 closed meeting with Continental executives to discuss the pollution allegations.
EPA experts said that most companies, once on the list, have 270 days to comply with Clean Air Act regulations. If state agencies fail to force compliance, the EPA can begin legal actions and levy fines.