I too was involved with King of the Wind Farms, albeit nowhere near as long as Dr. Chuck (you see, I'm nowhere near as old as he is). Because of unforeseen circumstances I was unable to continue my consulting relationship with the Farm. I received no fees and do not anticipate working for the farm in the future, so I have no "duty" to write this other than to share with you why I feel this is an unjust lawsuit.
I was on the composting site several times in 2001. Only once did I perceive what might be considered an offensive odor. That was associated with a small pocket of decomposing leaves that had started to burn and was producing an acrid smoke. Once extinguished, problem gone. Over the years, in the course of my practice, I've been around countless odoriferous facilities ranging from industrial-chemical processes, pharmaceuticals, innumerable landfills (including back when they were continuously on fire and you had to wait for the bears to leave before getting out of your vehicle), huge hog farms, chicken farms and cattle feed-lots, septage spreading (the stuff from septic tanks), and virtually every part of the Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant (that's where most of SE Michigan's toilets flush to) – and composting operations. Not in your wildest dream would you consider the odor of composting leaves to be offensive. Yes, there might be the occasional bag of ripe grass clippings – but it's nowhere near the early problems that occurred with composting at the SOCRA facility. And it's not as if this facility backs-up to someone's yard.
The part of this lawsuit that really steams me is it absurdly pegs this operation for causing offensive odors and contaminated runoff when, for years the bureaucracy sat back and whined that they had no jurisdiction over the so-called factory farms with their sinus searing, eye blurring unimaginably sickening stink. When they spread hundreds of thousands of gallons of liquefied feces and urine over frozen croplands and the stuff runs off into the streams – we've got folks that say "we can't do anything because of the right to farm act". Now, that stinks.
Ask the folks around Hudson if they'd trade their offensive odors and brown runoff for those at King of the Wind Farms – they'd do it a hundred times over and probably give cash to boot.
Now, there was some other commentary that sort-of suggested 1-2-3 bad-stuff might be getting into the typical composting operation. The discussion noted that one facility used a huge amount of wood demolition debris that the correspondent felt was likely to be harmful. If that is the case at that facility, then shame on them. If they are facilitating these materials getting into the environment then they should be stopped. In any event, the only materials that I ever observed at the King of the Wind site were leaves and branches (and maybe a bag or two of grass clippings – out of thousands of tons of leaves). There are no demolition debris going into this facility – there is simply no use for them in this operation and, in fact, would cause severe operational problems. This facility gets virtually all of its materials during the fall and very early winter. The guys that collect the yard-wastes (bagged leaves) are not going to load their trucks with demolition debris during the course of their curbside pickups.
Another correspondent indicated that composting may involve mixing plant detritus with animal wastes. While that may occur under some circumstances at other facilities, rest assured that there is not a concerted effort to bring animal wastes to this facility. The farm does has some horses, so I suppose it is possible that some of the horse manure might get mixed in with the leaves – but that would be an extremely tiny volume of the composting materials. Besides, it is a farm, with horses, that produce horse manure…..
Runoff problems? There is no site constraint that would rationally suggest that there should be a runoff problem. During my relatively short tenure working at the site, the owner was more than willing to accommodate whatever needed to be done to keep the facility functioning in an environmentally responsible way. If there was a problem with runoff, it could have been addressed very simply, within a matter of a few days and at very little cost.
So, what's the beef? First, the folks in Hudson don't know the right politicians and developers.
In reality, there is only one real issue here – truck traffic. And worst of all, many are (can I say it in a mixed audience?) Garbage trucks. That's not good when you want to market a whole bunch of new (not yet built) houses to folks with 2 ¼ kids.
Let's get to the real environmental issue here.
First, is the composting operation a farming operation? ALL of the compost is being spread on cropland; NONE is being sold or given away. Incidentally, my estimate was that their corn crop had twice the yield as other nearby farms. So, a product is entering the farm, is being converted to a growth media and is being used to grow crops. Sounds, more farmish than Hog Hotels to me.
Second, the Farm is in a farming area that is seeing development pressures – huge pressures. Just go and look at the new Township Offices – somebody's got some swell visions of what they want in the township – and it sure isn't farming.
Third, we've decided, as a State, that yard wastes shouldn't go into landfills – they needlessly took up, perhaps, 20% of the volume of landfills. So, if King of the Wind Farms is not a suitable operation for handling leaf composting, folks, there isn't going to be any meaningful composting at all.
Is the facility unsightly? Nope, it is screened by trees on all sides. Except for the truck traffic entering and leaving the site in the fall, the casual observer wouldn’t even know the operation was there.
No, it's not the facility that stinks, it's the lawsuit.
The DEQ and the AG's office are getting themselves in the middle of a longstanding dispute between the owners of the farm and, seemingly, the Township developers. Of the real problems that may be occurring at the site, including the possibility of some odors, they can all be rationally resolved. But passions have been whipped up to such a state that everybody is going to lose.
I have been involved with King of the Wind Farms composting for a long time (read that as before DNR was split into DEQ and DNR), starting back when I was still Exec Sec of the Michigan Toxic Substance Control Commission in 1988. As a state employee (not receiving payment from King of the Wind Farms) I have testified or given depositions on behalf of King of the Wind Farms more than once and in all cases, Macomb Twp has lost out, and in my opinion correctly. Since my retirement, I have served as a consultant to King of the Wind Farms. Because of my involvement, I have not commented on Enviro-Mich up until this point.
Some of the twp officials have a financial interest in development acreage adjacent to the KOTW Farms and it appears clear that they have encouraged the neighbors to flood the DEQ and MDA with odor complaints even on days when the wind direction would preclude odors from KOTW. I have been on site when the compost materials have been moved and screened and the odors are typical of well run compost operations. There have no doubt been legitimate odor complaints, but in today's rural residential (move out from the city) society farm odors are not part of many people's experience base and therefore a problem.
What you read in the paper does not reflect all that has occurred. I will share some thoughts later on why I think MDA and MDEQ have been reluctant to accept "regulatory" authority. In my opinion they dumped the matter of large scale composting back and forth, with neither agency accepting nor having necessary knowledge base to make helpful corrective suggestions to any compost operation.