NILES CHARTER TWP., Mich. --- A three-hour meeting settled a summer's debate over a special land use permit for a proposed waste management facility in Niles Charter Township. On Tuesday, the Planning Commission approved revisions made by Earth Smart Environmental Solutions, LLC. The Mich.-based company will manage non-hazardous waste at 1400 South Third Street in Niles.
"The facility that is in Niles that we purchased is very conducive to the management of waste type of materials because it has thick concrete walls, thick concrete flooring, and thick concrete ceiling," said David Hux, the company's co-owner.
In July, the Niles Charter Twp. struck down Earth Smart's initial special land use permit request for the same property. Since then, the company revised its application to reduce operating hours from 7:00 a.m. - 11:30 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. -- 7:00 p.m. Earth Smart also axed plans to manage hazardous waste. The Third Street plant only will handle three kinds of waste: universal waste, non-RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) waste, and regulated medical waste. All waste will be shipped off-site for final disposal.
"Here’s a company that’s coming in to clean [the property] up at their expense -- not taxpayers’ expense, make something productive out of that property," said Dave Spurlock, member of the Niles Charter Twp. Planning Commission.
Niles resident Akos Kovach saw no benefit in the proposed facility, collecting 62 signatures from neighbors.
"A place to manage waste would be a good place in Nevada in a desert where it’s not going to affect anybody, none of the residents," said Kovach. "In my backyard, no. In other places they can go."
Earth Smart manages a similar waste management facility north of the future Niles Charter Twp. site. Its largest customers include VA medical centers, the EPA, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Where does the waste go?
According to a Earth Smart letter addressed to the Planning Commission, universal waste is defined as batteries, electronics, mercury contained in devices (thermostats, thermometers, batteries, etc.). That material will be shipped to universal waste recyclers and/or metal recovery facilities.
Non-RCRA waste includes oil, pharmaceuticals, antifreeze, oily rags, and filters. All material will be reshipped to oil recovery facilities, recyclers, and/or waste-to-energy facilities.
Earth Smart said "regulated medical waste" relates to materials such as gauze, bandages, and sharps -- but excludes radioactive waste. All of the material received will be treated through a steam sterilization process called autoclave to make the waste "non-biological." Then, the material will be disposed at a different facility -- possibly one converting waste to energy.
Who will ensure facility compliance?
The Niles Charter Twp. Planning Commission said Earth Smart will be subject to unannounced inspections by the township fire chief and any township official. Additionally, the company must comply to township, state, and federal regulations.
Earth Smart plans to manage waste at the Niles Charter Twp. facility within the next three months. In the mean time, Hux and his co-owner must acquire other permits before they can start processing non-hazardous materials.