DPI denies ongoing nuisance-level odors

News File Photo The Decorative Panels International Alpena plant appears in this August 2022 News archive photo.

ALPENA — In a response to an odor violation notice issued recently by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, Decorative Panels International on Tuesday detailed several steps it has taken to reduce odors coming from its wastewater lagoon.

It also said it is not creating a nuisance with its smells.

“Although DPI is taking all care and devoting significant resources to responding to the [violation notice] and related complaints, the company respectfully denies that any ongoing nuisance-level odors are being created by DPI’s operations at this juncture,” the company said in its response, submitted just before the close of the business day on Tuesday.

The state cited the company for odor violations earlier this month after resident complaints brought inspectors sniffing around the DPI property.

EGLE gave the company until Tuesday to explain the smells and say how they would be fixed.

DPI’s response said fresh water and air the company added to the lagoon should provide short-term relief to residents fed up with bad smells.

The response also included a request that EGLE provide copies of the complaints that sparked the inspection, saying that information would help an expert it hired “to further investigate these issues.”

DPI has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the complaints against it, according to the response.

According to an EGLE spokeswoman, the agency’s air quality division will evaluate DPI’s response and decide what additional actions or follow-up are necessary to verify that the violation has been adequately addressed.

Check out the document below. Story continues below the document.

DPI Violation Response by Julie Riddle on Scribd

DPI in the response said it “is treating this issue with the utmost seriousness,” and its internal response team meets daily to address the smell issues at the Alpena facility.

After resident complaints prompted an Aug. 5 visit, EGLE inspectors said DPI emitted smells resembling stale, wet vegetation that reached level 5 on the odor scale, or “overpowering and intolerable for any length of time,” downwind of DPI’s lagoon.

DPI’s response said water in the lagoon was warmer than usual at the time of the inspection.

That warmth may have impacted the oxygen in the water, encouraging bad smells, the company said.

Two days after the state’s visit, DPI began adding 200 to 250 gallons per minute of river water to the lagoon to cool the water and improve its oxygenation level.

During the following two days, DPI brought three aerators online and rented a pump to recirculate and re-aerate existing lagoon water, the response said.

EGLE’s violation notice specifies that inspectors saw aerators in operation at the lagoon, but “some aerators were not operating” during the visit.

DPI has had no lagoon odor complaints since Aug. 7, according to the response, which said DPI believes upcoming cooler weather “will mitigate the potential for any wastewater lagoon odors in the near term.”

Investigators also noted wood smells in the residential area near DPI, a “distinct and definite objectionable odor” at a level 4 on the odor scale.

In its response to the state, DPI said it could find no “upset conditions or malfunctions on our process lines” to explain the woody smell.

“While DPI is not suggesting that an odor was not detected,” the response said, “it is difficult to ascertain the source of this odor at our facility based on the description.”

DPI hired an odor expert to investigate the smells and plans to provide a followup report to the state in two weeks.

According to the response, EGLE visited DPI several times before the Aug. 5 visit to investigate sewer odors but found none.

The EGLE spokeswoman said the agency is currently reviewing DPI’s response and could not confirm whether the alleged visits occurred.

At least one independent law firm has communicated with north side residents about participating in a class action lawsuit targeting DPI, and the Alpena Municipal Council went into closed session during a recent meeting to discuss potential litigation regarding the company.

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693, jriddle@thealpenanews.com or on Twitter @jriddleX.

This story has been updated to reflect that DPI denies any ongoing nuisance-level odors are being created by its operations. That information was unclear in an earlier version of this story.


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