Late and Smelly?

Kirtland Products LLC has been accused of missing certain filing dates and polluting the air
The material coming from Kirtland Products' main plume has been the subject of recent controversy (C. Faulknor/BC Gazette)
The material coming from Kirtland Products’ main plume has been the subject of recent controversy (C. Faulknor/BC Gazette)

Kirtland Products LLC has been accused of missing certain filing dates and polluting the air—perhaps the only good news for the wood pellet manufacturer last week is the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s (MDEQ) claim that Kirtland’s emissions overages are not likely hazardous.

 

According to the Charlevoix County Circuit Court filing by Boyne City’s Attorney James J. Murray, of Plunkett Cooney, on April 10, Kirtland missed a critical deadline in its appeal to the Boyne City Planning Commission’s Jan. 21 decision to shut the wood pellet manufacturer down.

“The City filed its Record on Appeal according to its Proof of Service on March 8…. (Kirtland) was obligated to file a motion regarding the record within 21 days after transmission of the record to the court,” it stated in the city’s filing. “(Kirtland’s) motion, according to its proof of service, was mailed April 1 … and therefore was not timely filed and should not be considered by this court.”

Kirtland officials did not return calls by press time. Kirtland has not responded to any Boyne City Gazette requests for interview since the beginning of February.

Also within the pages of the city’s filing are claims that numerous portions of Kirtland’s appeal—including a landscape plan, and a Jan. 14 e-mail outlining a proposed settlement offer.

“Appelant’s (Kirtland’s) brief is due within 28 days after this circuit court provides written notice … that the record on appeal is filed with the court,” it stated in the city’s filing. “Therefore, appellant’s Brief was due April 5,2013. Appellant’s proposed order seeks to file such a brief by May 9, 2013 and therefore clearly appellant is merely seeking to delay a decision in this case.”

They further stated, “The city timely filed its record on appeal and appellant has objected to documents that were clearly included in the record. As such, appellant should be liable to pay the city’s costs of responding to this motion.”

The city requested the court deny Kirtland’s motion, declare Kirtland was untimely in its objections and filing its brief on appeal, dismiss Kirtland’s appeal or order it to file its brief on appeal within seven days, and award the city costs and attorney fees.

Air Quality Complaints

On April 18, the Boyne City Gazette and the MDEQ received an e-mail from Boyne City resident Michael J. Smith claiming that Kirtland Products—which has continued to operate on and off during the nearly three months since it was ordered to be shut down—was negatively impacting Boyne City’s air quality.

“My wife mentioned that when she was walking with her students within the Boyne City school complex yesterday (April 17), she could hardly breathe the befouled air. As you well know, this is not an isolated incident. In my opinion, to allow the Kirtland Pellet Plant to continue to operate, even one more day, so close to pre-school, church, and public school facilities … would be both irresponsible and unconscionable,” Smith wrote. “The safety and health of our children and my wife are compromised with each passing day.”

Smith, whose wife suffers from asthma, requested the MDEQ set up equipment to monitor various sites throughout the city for air quality issues.

According to Environmental Quality Analyst Kurt Childs of the MDEQ’s Cadillac office, he received several complaints last week about Kirtland and air quality.

Childs said the MDEQ is currently awaiting a revised permit application from Kirtland.

MDEQ had sent a notice to Kirtland that several of their emissions thresholds were exceeded back in January.

The emissions points in question are as follows:

  • The EU Grinder produced .69 lbs per hour—this exceeded the permitted rate of .40 lbs per hour.
  • The EU Pellet machine produced .50 lbs per hour—this exceeded the permitted rate of .05 lbs per hour.
  • The EU Cooler produced .14 lbs per hour—this exceeded the permitted rate of .035 lbs per hour.

The new application is expected to offer at least one of two possible solutions to the manufacturer’s emissions overages: apply for an increase in exhaust emissions or reduce the emissions mechanically.

“They’ve done some additional modeling to see if they can raise the limits on particular stacks they have,” Childs said. “They have a number of different processes—each with its own emissions point—and different types of emissions.

Childs said it is routine for companies to write their own permit parameters. The permits are then reviewed by a team of environmental experts in Lansing that decides whether the type, rate and volume of emissions fall within levels considered safe to the environment.

Childs said Kirtland’s originally-stated emissions levels were lower than they needed to be to comply with state regulations.

“I’m assuming that, as opposed to changing their pollution control device, they may feel raising their emission limits may be the only option,” he said. “I have been in touch with the company this week and they have a separate engineering firm they are waiting on and then we should be seeing a new application soon.”

According to Childs, the MDEQ rarely pulls a company’s permit; and, Kirtland’s legal tussle with the city would have no bearing on their MDEQ permit.

“When we issue them a permit we put requirements in that they conduct testing of stacks to make sure they are complying with the permits and we set those levels so they are protective of human health and the environment,” Childs said. “I fully expect what is coming out of the plant is not a hazard.”

Childs did say that, under certain atmospheric conditions, emissions from an otherwise legally-operating factory could pose a temporary nuisance.

“If you were standing downwind from the plant and there was no wind and the plume was hanging around, it could produce irritating, strong odors and create a nuisance type condition,” Childs said. “They had three points that exceeded their emission limits but they are pretty low limits and a pretty low volume so, even though they exceeded it by relatively quite a bit, they are nowhere near the emissions coming out of the big stack—which are safe.”
He added, “I don’t anticipate it being a health issue but we do want them to stick by their permit.”

Childs said he will continue to follow up on any complaints made about Kirtland in the future.

Kirtland time-line

  • November 2011 – Kirtland begins to operate
  • Late-2011 – Boyne City begins receiving complaints about excessive noise coming from the factory located in the Air Industrial park.
  • Dec. 12, 2011 – Kirtland replaces the bearings on the raw material leveling screw. There is a noise frequency reduction but not enough for some.
  • Dec. 17, 2011 – Kirtland investigates possible equipment sources of the objectionable noise with some of its business neighbors.
  • Dec. 19, 2011 – Kirtland reduces from two shifts to one in order to eliminate noise in the evening.
  • Jan. 10, 2012 – Boyne City Commission reviews complaints about Kirtland’s noise and emissions
  • Jan. 24, 2012 – Kirtland begins noise abatement efforts to no avail when it installs mufflers on some equipment.
  • Feb. 14 – Boyne City Mayor Ron Grunch floats the idea of creating a citizens committee consisting of concerned citizens, public officials and Kirtland officials to work on the noise issue.
  • Feb. 29 – City officials clash with the press over whether the citizens committee meetings should be open to the public. The meetings are ultimately held in the open.
  • March 15 – The Kirtland Noise Issue Citizens Committee identifies RSG as the probable consulting group that would study the noise issue.
  • April 24, 2012 – Boyne City Commission approves the plan for RSG to conduct the noise study. The $14,800 fee is picked up by the Boyne City Economic Development Corporation/Local Development Finance Authority.
  • July 17, 2012 – RSG officials give their report detailing sound levels around the city and proposed fixes to them.
  • Aug. 14, 2012 – Boyne City Commission remands the issue back to the planning commission so it may determine if Kirtland is violating its operating permit.
  • Sept. 11-13, 2012 – Derenzo & Associates test Kirtland’s emissions stacks.
  • Oct. 9, 2012 – Kirtland announces it is still working with a second sound mitigation company and is unable to pay the $30,000 for the release of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality report on its emissions.
  • Dec. 17, 2012 – The Boyne City Planning Commission hears an overview of proposals to further address the noise issue.
  • Dec. 26, 2012 – Kirtland’s Department of Quality Assurance addresses the MDEQ in writing concerning the company’s overages of several pollutants being emitted from some of the wood pellet manufacturer’s exhaust stacks.
  • Jan. 8 – Boyne City Commission is presented with three new noise mitigation plans. Kirtland claims they are trying to hit a moving target; city officials are dubious about the potential of the proposals.
  • Jan. 21, 2013 – Kirtland is officially shut down by the Boyne City Planning Commission due to noise and emissions issues.
  • Jan. 28, 2013 – Kirtland is issued a municipal civil infraction for continuing to operate.
  • Feb. 1, 2013 – Kirtland files an appeal in Charlevoix County 33rd Circuit Court.
  • March 12, 2013 – The city’s deadline to send all documents and pictures on the matter to the circuit court.
  • April 9, 2013 – Kirtland’s deadline to file an appeal briefing on the matter.
  • April 30, 2013 – Boyne City’s deadline to file a responsive brief to Kirtland’s appeal on the matter.
  • Mid-May, 2013 – How long the appeals process could last.