Clinton Township has put a stop to all business dealings with a local recycling and composting company so long as a lawsuit between the two remains unresolved.
The township board of trustees voted unanimously Monday to discontinue all business with Uni-Dig, Inc., the company it filed suit against June 4 in an effort to force the Quinn Road site to control its “noxious” odors.
But in the weeks since that motion was filed, the township continued to do business with Uni-Dig – a practice Treasurer William Sowerby and Trustee Jenifer (Joie) West asked the board to discontinue Monday night.
“It just makes sense. When you sue a company, you stop doing business with that company,” Sowerby said. “You’re using taxpayer dollars to sue and then you’re also using taxpayer dollars to then do business.”
In the past, Clinton Township has done $15,000 to $20,000 in business with Uni-Dig annually.
While township officials repeatedly said they do not wish to put Uni-Dig out of business, none argued Trustee Ken Pearl’s observation that the smell must be stopped. More than a dozen residents from Uni-Dig's surrounding neighborhoods also shared their concerns regarding health, property values and quality of life with the board Monday night.
“I am an advocate of recycling,” said Victoria Prout, a homeowner on Electra Street. “I appreciate all of the merits, but unfortunately for a number of years now our neighborhood has had to smell the ramifications of the compost not being properly treated – treatments that would ensure we not have to smell the stench that compost creates.”
Prout added that her children, ages 2 and 3, are “so disgusted with the stench” that they refuse to play outside.
Rashida Shack, a teacher at Robbie Hall Parker Elementary School, one of two elementary schools in the area of Uni-Dig, said the feelings of Prout’s children are shared by many of her own students.
“We have kids that are used to the smell,” Shack said. “That is awful. It’s a disgrace.”
Vinita Street resident Bonnie O'Conner said she fears she'll never able to ever sell her home because of the stench, while Gates Street resident Phillip Williams says he is often embarrassed to even admit that he knows the source of the smell to visitors.
Other residents expressed concerns over public safety, specifically the unknown impact constant inhalation of these odors will have on children and those with respiratory issues. These and other residents have even set up a Facebook group, People Against the Awful Uni-Dig Compost Smell, in an effort to coordinate their efforts and bring attention to this issue.
“This has been ongoing for a couple years. It isn’t going away,” Sowerby said. “The only way we’re going to get a permanent solution is in court.”
In the meantime, the township will stop all business transactions with Uni-Dig and instruct its garbage carrier, Rizzo Services, to take residential compost to other facilities.
Uni-Dig co-owner Renee Michaels, who was present at the meeting, denied Patch’s request to comment on the township’s decision.
Per the lawsuit filed June 4 in Macomb County Circuit Court, the township is requesting the court order Uni-Dig to eliminate the odor associated with its composting operations.
The lawsuit argues that Uni-Dig's property isn’t zoned for composting operations and notes that the business is currently in violation with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality over the volume of its composting pile.
Uni-Dig has since hired the Lansing-based environmental assessment company OTI Industrial Services to help abate the odor. Residents say they contact OTI almost daily. Complaints can be made to firstname.lastname@example.org or 586-216-4561.