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Testing needed to determine if DPI odors endanger health, expert says | News, Sports, Jobs

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz
The Decorative Panels International plant in Alpena sits on the shore of the Thunder Bay River and Lake Huron on Monday. The plant is the supply of a foul odor that has raised the ire of residents. On Monday, the Alpena Municipal Council went into closed session to talk about potential litigation concerning the plant and the odor.

ALPENA — Future testing could assist Alpena’s north facet residents know whether or not to fear about their long-term well being.

A state quotation ordered Alpena enterprise Decorative Panels International to repair the supply of smells inspectors referred to as “overpowering and intolerable.” Residents residing close to the plant have claimed the smells made them sick.

DPI officers final week advised the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy that the corporate took steps to mitigate a odor coming from its wastewater lagoon, together with including river water and aerating and recirculating present water.

“No evidence of, or link to, illnesses in the community as a result of odors onsite has been reported,” Daryl Clendenen, DPI common supervisor, mentioned in an announcement to The News.

Environmental officers have but to take a look at the air to see if it may trigger long-term well being issues.

Smells and the chemical compounds inflicting them could cause dangerous well being signs, however scientists have problem linking smells to precise illness that gained’t go away when the odor is eliminated, mentioned Brandon Reid, a toxicologist with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Division of Environmental Health.

The solely manner to determine the protection of the air round a web site like DPI is thru air sampling, he mentioned.

“We would definitely not trust our noses,” Reid mentioned.


When residents final month met with Alpena Mayor Matt Waligora to voice complaints concerning the north facet odor, a number of mentioned the robust odors triggered complications and bronchial asthma or different underlying situations.

Waligora inspired the residents to take well being issues to the native well being division.

District Health Department No. 4 advised The News that the division “has no programmatic nor jurisdictional authority in this area” and that oversight for points associated to DPI lies solely with EGLE.

Alpena residents proceed to report offensive smells emanating from DPI to an EGLE hotline for air pollution emergencies, together with complaints made final week, EGLE spokeswoman Jill Greenberg mentioned.

EGLE has obtained 77 odor-related complaints from the Alpena space since July 1. Not all the complaints have been about DPI.

The company has obtained a number of complaints particularly reporting alleged public well being issues associated to the odors, Greenberg mentioned.

Many residents calling the hotline say the odor — which one caller described as “sulfur, sewage, and death mixed together” — makes them nauseous.

After it completes its assessment of DPI’s response, EGLE will resolve on subsequent steps, together with the opportunity of air testing, Greenberg mentioned.

DHHS has not examined DPI’s air however is working with EGLE on odor issues involving DPI, spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin mentioned.

The rotting vegetation odor EGLE inspectors recognized as coming from DPI’s lagoon has been recognized at different websites as originating from chemical compounds containing sulfur. Those chemical compounds require particular sampling and have to be analyzed in a short time after assortment, Sutfin mentioned.

The company doesn’t know when such testing would possibly happen at DPI however will share outcomes publicly, Sutfin mentioned.


As a specialist who addresses websites the place the state has issues about environmental contamination and well being results, Reid hears typically from residents who need to know if disagreeable and annoying odors will trigger long-term hurt to their well being.

Most signs associated to offensive odors, similar to complications or nausea, go away because the odor dissipates, whether or not the response stems from the odor itself or a chemical underlying the odor, he mentioned.

Humans have extensively various ranges of sensitivities to odors, and specialists evaluating the chance posed by websites similar to DPI have a tough time doing so based mostly on folks’s reactions, Reid mentioned.

A chemical’s potential for harming folks by way of odor is dependent upon the toxicological properties of the chemical “and how much of that chemical reaches the person who is smelling it,” Reid mentioned.

A robust, offensive odor doesn’t imply a chemical is poisonous or will trigger long-term results, and scientists typically can’t determine a chemical by its odor as a result of some chemical compounds odor the identical or haven’t any odor in any respect, he mentioned.

Saying his firm deeply regrets the inconvenience attributable to disagreeable odors from the lagoon, Clendenen, the DPI common supervisor, inspired residents who really feel sick to seek the advice of with their well being care suppliers.

“We are steadfast in our commitment to eradicate odor emanating from the lagoon in the future and sincerely hope this matter is resolved soon,” Clendenen mentioned.

Residents can report environmental issues to the EGLE Pollution Emergency Alert System at 800-292-4706.

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