August 22, 2019
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) ensures compliance with state and federal rules. Air Quality Division (AQD) field staff accomplish this, in part, by conducting inspections of sources of air pollution. AQD inspections help ensure the business community is knowledgeable and in compliance with air pollution control rules. As with all compliance matters, it takes cooperation and communication between industry and EGLE for positive results. Ultimately, it was this collaboration that led to the successful outcome with Elm Plating Company.
Elm Plating Company is a family-owned company operating in Jackson since 1951. As a metal finishing business, they apply protective coatings to fasteners, stampings, and other metal compounds. In August 2015, AQD staff became aware of a new plant and initiated a compliance inspection. Following this regulatory evaluation, it was determined that due to the significant level of emissions released by the coating process, additional steps would be necessary in order to get this plant into full compliance with state and federal air pollution rules.
In the months following the inspection, Elm Plating and EGLE worked together to find the best route to compliance. For EGLE, this involved working with Elm Plating for the issuance of a permit that outlined the required operational procedures for their coating processes. Subsequently, as a company that had already embraced technology by using robotics in their old production line, Elm Plating responded with a new, fully automated, state-of-the-art coating line. Under the direction of professionals at Elm Plating, the coatings for this new line were developed by corrosion experts at Dörken MKS, while the equipment was designed by SIDASA Engineering. The equipment is comprised of six robots within an entirely enclosed, climate-controlled paint area, and all emissions are routed to a treatment unit that reduces volatile air emissions by 97%.
"This new production line at Elm Plating represents the largest and most technically advanced dip spin coating production line in the world," said Sam Bitonit, vice president of the company’s Organic Coating Division. Overall, the equipment is more environmentally friendly, uses less water and process chemicals, is safer to operate, and allows for a higher efficiency output.
A more recent inspection of this plant was conducted in late 2018 by Stephanie Weems of the AQD staff. At that time, EGLE staff was able to see the extent to which Elm Plating is complying with requirements, and how they went above and beyond expectations. A tour of the new coating line that included a demonstration explained how well the new controls work to prevent chemicals from entering the outside air. After being informed of the history, Weems attributed this local success story to the highly trained staff of EGLE, the dedication and investment of Elm Plating, and the essential cooperation between regulators and industry. All in all, it is apparent that it takes a lot of time and work to go from the compliance "how" to the accomplishments of "now."