A long string of air pollution violations in the Detroit area prompted Stellantis to reexamine its plant development processes from the ground up to figure out what went wrong.
The automaker has racked up a dozen emissions violations and more than $500,000 in fines between its Mack and Warren Truck assembly plants in the past couple of years.
The plants, which have duplicate paint shops, were built with flawed ducting that has been fixed, Al Johnston, head of the automaker's corporate environmental group, said during a tour at the Mack plant.
Johnston said he could not point to where exactly the issue occurred in the plant development process.
In its tour, the automaker sought to put to rest the source of most of its air violations for the past two years: paint odors emanating from the Mack plant, which opened in 2021 and builds Jeep Grand Cherokees. Neighbors have blamed the odors for difficulty breathing and poorer quality of life.
As part of an agreement made with the state, the automaker finalized in late June the installation of a second regenerative thermal oxidizer — a hulking, multimillion-dollar piece of equipment intended to solve the problem. Johnston said the lack of a second oxidizer was not a design flaw but that the paint shop created more pungent odors than anticipated.
Robert Shobe, whose yard backs to the plant, has been among the most outspoken about noxious odors. He told Crain's Detroit Business, an affiliate of Automotive News, that the problem has improved but not gone away. “Completely still smell it from time to time,” he said.
Shobe said he has made complaints to the state and that representatives have gone out to investigate. However, no violations have been issued since June 1, before the oxidizer was installed.