MI Sandblasting Business Cited for Violations


On several occasions this year, Kalamazoo Sandblast (Kalamazoo, Michigan) was investigated by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), Air Quality Division (AQD) upon receiving a series of complaints.

Over the course of the investigations, EGLE worked to determine if the facility followed the requirements of the federal Clean Air Act, in addition to the company's sandblasting and fugitive dust attributed to facility operations.

About the Citations, Complaints

According to a Violation Notice issued by EGLE on Jan. 29, the Department’s AQD first conducted a complaint investigation of Kalamazoo Sandblast on Jan. 19. The investigation was in response to a recent complaint EGLE received on Jan. 13.

During the initial investigation, staff observed that Kalamazoo Sandblast did not have appropriate filters installed for an externally vented sandblasting process and that the process couldn’t be considered internally vented in that the building was not air-tight, noting that one of the walls consisted of only a tarp covering. Due to these findings, staff reported that the requirements for meeting an exemption were not met and that at the time, the process was not covered by a Permit to Install.

With regard to the business’ coating process, the staff also found that its facility did not have a proper filtration system installed for coatings operations and again, was not covered by a Permit to Install.

As a result of the findings, EGLE issued Kalamazoo Sandblast the Violation Notice, indicating that a program for compliance could include a completed PTI application for the sandblasting and coating process equipment. The EGLE also reminded the company that Rule 201 would require Kalamazoo Sandblast to obtain a permit prior to installation, construction, operation, reconstruction, relocation, or alteration of any process or process equipment that could be a source of air containment.

Kalamazoo was given until Feb. 19 to correct the cited violations and submit a written response to the Violation Notice. In the company’s response, owner Joe Cornelius reported that he was committed to having the sandblasting building completely enclosed and air-tight by March 26.

However, during a EGLE follow-up inspection on April 8, staff found that the building was still not completely enclosed, and that no filtration system had been installed. On April 15, EGLE issued a second Violation Notice to Kalamazoo, requiring that the issues be fixed, and response be sent to the Department by May 6.

Throughout the series of violations, FOX 17 West Michigan News started reporting on the ongoing battle of whether Kalamazoo Sandblast would comply with state code or continue to face more violations. According to neighbors residing near the business, the improper ventilation and lack of a proper air-tight facility has disrupted their lives and accuse Cornelius of not trying to correct the issues.

“In between my house and that building is my air intake for my furnace, so all that dust goes into my house,” said Guy Cherry, a long-term resident of the community, adding that, “It’s just terrible to be standing outside when he’s blasting, and it’s loud too. We’re at 80 decibels right over there, 80 decibels. And it’s like 69 decibels inside my home.”

While the noise and dust is negatively affecting Cherry’s day-to-day life, he also reports that the sandblasting business has worsened his insomnia—the result of a traumatic brain injury following his military service—and even has a medical document from the Battle Creek VA revealing that his asthma has worsened as well.

Another neighbor, Brandon Robart, has complained to FOX that his sports car, although kept inside his garage, is also continuously being coated in dust. Having lived at his property for more than 11 years, Robart says that Kalamazoo Sandblast begins operations as early as 7 or 8 (in the morning) and last until 10 at night, sometimes seven days a well.

While it would just be one thing to clean the car off, Robart adds that the blast media being used is abrasive, so if he were to wipe it off the car, it would ultimately scratch the paint.

Both neighbors began filing complaints over the noise back in November and December of 2020 and went as far as to contact the Kalamazoo Area Building Authority. While Comstock Township confirmed that Cornelius does not have a permit for the building, the permit was never pulled by the KABA. Due to the lack of action, the two then contacted the Environmental Protection Agency and EGLE.

When Kalamazoo Sandblast failed its inspection in April, two days later the attorney representing Cherry and Robart sent a cease-and-desist letter asking the company to stop operating until they’ve complied with EGLE and local regulations. On May 11, they filed a temporary restraining order trying to get the business to stop operating, and a judge approved it.

By the end of the month, the judge issued a preliminary injunction against the company prohibiting the owner from doing any sandblasting, painting or other unlawful activities until it complies with state regulations and local ordinances.

In an interview, Cornelius stated, “We cannot ventilate our building externally because of how this zoning is set up. What we have now is exhaust fans that blow directly into a bag house, and the bag house—right now it’s sealed, but it’s basically a wooden box. We have one on order but they’re 14 weeks out.”

What Now

Although the EGLE had previously given Kalamazoo Sandblast until May 6 to fix the issues, the Department has since been reported to be “flexible” if there is a credible reason to extend the deadline.

Cornelius told the agency he would be in compliance by the end of last month and is requesting some exemptions to the rules he violated.

While no reports have indicated additional inspection reports at this time, Cornelius was reported to have created a gofundme last month for the cause, requesting $25,000 to properly ventilate the facility and get Kalamazoo Sandblast back to work.


Tagged categories: Abrasive blasting; Air pollution control; Air quality; Blasting; Environmental Controls; Good Technical Practice; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Laws and litigation; Lawsuits; NA; North America; Regulations; Surface preparation; Surface preparation equipment; Violations

Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.