“Almost Complete Lack of Record Keeping” Says Michigan Company $ 66,000 Fine


Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story contained a photo of a tree service that is unrelated to this issue.

WINN, MI – Mid-Michigan landscaping equipment manufacturer fined $ 66,000 for exceeding limits for harmful chemical emissions, keeping poor records and other quality violations air, according to state regulators.

Morbark LLC, which operates a factory next to a school in the small Isabella County village of Winn, has reportedly ignored some pollution checks amid a “almost total lack of record keepingAccording to the Michigan Department of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).

EGLE takes public comment until September 30 on the fine.

Morbark manufactures heavy equipment used in forestry and landscaping, such as tree and brush chippers, chippers and chippers. The company’s large plant is located at 8507 S. Winn Road. Morbark became a subsidiary of the Texan group Alamo last year.

State regulators began to intensification of execution of the company’s compliance with the air pollution permit last summer after a 2018 inspection found plant staff were not calculating the amount of volatile organic compounds released during the production of ‘equipment.

The plant has strict use limits in its air permit for ethylbenzene and methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK), a toxic compound widely used in industrial paint.

Morbark also did not keep records of gas consumption for factory boilers, among other issues, EGLE said. He received notices of violation in January and April 2019.

“The company has fundamentally ignored its most recent air permit conditions since obtaining it,” wrote EGLE Inspector Ben Witkopp following a visit in August 2018.

Morbark later said it released five tonnes of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) more than its permit allows, according to official documents.

Erin Moran, a law enforcement specialist in EGLE’s Air Quality division, said the agency approved an amendment to Morbark’s permit in December after the company attributed the emissions to an inefficient paint application system.

A company response at EGLE blamed the emissions problem on an increase in production in 2018 which necessitated greater use of paint thinners. Morbark said some of the record keeping issues were due to the employee being unemployed for medical issues at an inconvenient time.

Moran said keeping inaccurate records is something EGLE takes seriously because this is how regulators check whether a company is meeting allowable pollution limits.

Exposure to certain volatile organic compounds can irritate a person’s eyes, nose and throat and can cause nervous system and organ damage, depending on exposure levels. Some VOCs are carcinogenic. Outdoors, the compounds can react with other chemicals in the air to produce ozone pollution, which can also be harmful to people.

Morbark is located in a rural setting with a small residential area to the north. The factory is located next to the Winn Elementary School, which is part of the Shepherd District.

“Emissions exceedances harm public health and the environment,” Moran said. “VOCs are pretty serious. “

Moran said Morbark’s violations aren’t the most egregious she’s seen, but “if you don’t keep track of your records, we don’t know exactly what your shows are.”

EGLE’s water resources staff also separately released Morbark 14 offenses over the past five years for not submitting on time the monitoring reports of discharges of sewage pumped into three small lagoons across the street.

Morbark communications employee Jeanne Maddox said the company had no comment on the air quality fine beyond what was contained in the state consent order .

The proposed fine follows settlement negotiations between EGLE and Morbark. The money will go to the Michigan State General Fund.

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