The Severstal plant on Miller Road in Dearborn has operated under an outdate permit since 2006.
It's due for updating but activists and neighbors are wondering why a revision to the permit would be granted when the company has not lived up to the old one which they violated 36 times.
The state of Michigan says the new permit will more accurately reflect the plant's operations. Overall, levels of carbon monoxide will double, volatile organic compounds will rise and, in some parts of the plant, lead emissions will be hundreds of times higher than under the old permit.
Severstal has invested more than $1.5 billion in the plant, including pollution control measures. The company says the original permit underestimated emissions and while some smokestacks will pollute more, the Department of Environmental Quality says others will pollute less and that this revised permit will protect, not threaten, the public.
"I'm talking about things like nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, various kinds of particulate matter, lead -- all of these are going to go down in the proposed permit that we're working to craft with and for Severstal, and the DEQ and the US EPA will hold the company to that as well," said DEQ spokesman Brad Wurfel.
Neighbors and activists are skeptical and suggest the DEQ's enforcement was lax.
The public will have the opportunity to be heard when the state has a hearing on March 19. There will be public comment and the state will make its case.