Circuit Court judge rules on Warren incinerator

By: Brian Wells | Warren Weekly | Published November 9, 2022

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WARREN — A Macomb County Circuit Court judge has ruled that the state doesn’t have to provide grant money to replace the incinerator at Warren’s Waste Water Treatment Plant.

On Oct. 25, Circuit Court Judge Richard Caretti issued a decision upholding the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy’s decision to remove the city from its list of municipal entities eligible for Clean Water State Revolving Funds. Instead of building a new incinerator, the department indicated Warren should replace it with a system that would dry biosolids and recycle them into fertilizer and compost.

Warren Waste Water Treatment Plant Division Head Bryan Clor requested the funding to help replace the city’s current incinerator, which was built in 1971 and most recently upgraded in 2016. Clor said several years ago, it was determined that the incinerator would only last about five more years.

“(An asset management program) found that the life expectancy of the incinerator was approximately five years when we started working on this project,” he said. “We started working on it two years ago, so basically about three years now.”

A new, modern incinerator would help with the destruction of PFAS chemicals while also cutting carbon emissions by 90% and natural gas usage by 95%, Clor said. PFAS is an abbreviation for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

“This is a really green process,” he added.

The process for funding began in January 2022. The city applied; however, in August, EGLE removed Warren from its list of cities eligible for funding. Clor filed an appeal but after some time passed without a hearing, an administrative appeal was filed by Warren city attorneys, asking for a temporary restraining order and for the court to issue a judgment that the city should still receive the funding.

Caretti denied the request for a temporary restraining order on Oct. 5. At its mid-October meeting, the Warren City Council voted 5-2 to halt any kind of funding for the project, citing environmental concerns and alleging that the city never provided any information about the expansion.

In a press release sent by the City Council, Council Secretary Mindy Moore, who represents the district where the treatment plant is located, said she had received messages from residents in the area who are concerned about health and safety issues and worried about the impact the incinerator may have on their property values.

“Once again, the City Council and the residents have been kept out of the loop by the administration,” she said. “If I knew about a proposed new PFAS incinerator next to a neighborhood, I would not have approved it.”

In contrast to what the City Council said in its release, Warren Mayor Jim Fouts alleges that the council “was given the information for the past two years in the 2021 budget and the current 2022 budget.”

While members of the City Council maintain they did not approve the lawsuit, Fouts said in a press release of his own that they did not need to approve it. The mayor also accused the council of using “scare tactics” to derail the project.

Several days before the judgment was issued by Caretti, Fouts said he planned to veto the City Council’s actions.

“In no event are we circumventing the authority of Council, binding the city to any final decision or to any funds,” Fouts said in a statement. “We are simply taking an administrative measure to further the grant application process.”

Clor said he plans to have a public forum to help the public understand the need for the new incinerator.

“I really think the city of Warren needs this project,” Clor said.