Local Paint Plant Settles With State

    LANSING — Two companies with ties to Grand Rapids recently negotiated a waste violations settlement with the Department of Environmental Quality and the Attorney General.

    By reaching an agreement with the state, Vemco Inc. and Venture Holding Co. LLC avoided going to trial in Ingham County Circuit Court over allegations of dumping toxic materials in unauthorized landfills near Grand Rapids and Grand Blanc.

    “Due to the persistence of our office and the DEQ, a threat of hazardous waste streams going into unlicensed facilities has been eliminated through a mutually agreeable settlement between the parties,” said Attorney General Mike Cox in a statement.

    Each company agreed to pay a civil fine of $194,000 and the state’s enforcement costs of $56,000 under the settlement. Both also agreed to comply with specific hazardous waste and liquid industrial waste regulations that each was alleged to have violated. If either doesn’t act in accordance with the agreement, the firms could be assessed penalties of up to $2,500 for every day of noncompliance.

    Vemco and Venture have denied any wrongdoing.

    In its complaint, the DEQ claimed Vemco and Venture wrongly listed waste solvents from paint cleaning operations as being non-hazardous. The agency also alleged the firms improperly disposed of the solvents by dumping these at sites not approved for hazardous materials.

    “There were several different unlicensed facilities. There were, as alleged in the complaint, at least three liquid waste solidification facilities and four Type 2 solid non-hazardous waste landfills,” said Christine Kearns of the DEQ.

    “The facility disposed of spent solvents that were defined as listed hazardous waste into their booth water-curtain system and when a listed hazardous waste is mixed with another waste, it’s all defined as listed hazardous waste under NREPA and Part 111, the hazardous waste regulations,” she told the Business Journal.

    Kearns added the materials should have been taken to a licensed landfill.

    “The wastes that were removed from the system were paint sludges that would have included constituents from that listed hazardous waste that was discarded into the booth system,” she said.

    Vemco is a Michigan corporation based in Fraser, while Venture is a Michigan limited liability company headquartered in Birmingham. Venture has an ownership interest in Vemco, which conducts painting operations for the auto industry at plants in Grand Rapids and Grand Blanc. Vemco lists its branch locations as being in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint, and Hopkinsville, Ky.

    Besides the limited liability company, Venture also has Venture Europe Inc., the Venture Holdings Corp., Venture Holdings Trust, Venture Industries Corp., Venture Leasing Co. Inc., and Venture Mold & Engineering Corp.

    Venture Vice President James Butler filed with the state for Venture Grand Rapids LLC in June of 1996. In July 1997, Butler dissolved the LLC. The address for the Venture Grand Rapids plant is 5050 Kendrick SE. Venture Holding was formed in March 2002.

    “We first found evidence of the violations at the Grand Blanc plant and then later found out that the Grand Rapids plant was managing that waste stream the same way,” said Kearns. “We pursued the company to resolve the problem and, obviously, they have.”

    Before agreeing to the settlement, Vemco and Venture spent more than $880,000 to dispose of paint sludges from their collection systems. The firms also added equipment to collect waste solvents and removed all the wastewater and sludges from their systems.

    Under the settlement, however, the state reserves the right to compel Vemco and Venture to make corrections in the event that hazardous wastes are ever released into the environment at either the Grand Blanc plant or Grand Rapids plant.

    “This settlement demonstrates our continued commitment to the enforcement of Michigan’s hazardous waste regulations,” said DEQ Director Steven Chester in a release. “It is also a prime example of the cooperation between the DEQ and the Attorney General to vigorously enforce the environmental laws of the state of Michigan, while minimizing litigation expenses.”           

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