Dissed & pissed 

Some shit hit the fan last Thursday night at Detroit’s South Rademacher Recreation Center.

The dustup came during a public hearing convened by Councilman Ken Cockrel Jr., who wanted to shed light on a controversial proposal to turn sewage sludge from the city’s wastewater treatment plant into fertilizer. At this point, there are more questions than answers surrounding the project, which would entail building a facility at the old Detroit Coke Corp. site along the river near Zug Island (“All Mucked Up,” MT, Feb. 25).

Cockrel had asked that the Water & Sewerage Department send someone to provide a comprehensive overview of the project. A formal proposal has been sitting on the desk of water department director Victor Mercado for just a few weeks, but discussion of the project has been ongoing since last year. Mercado has already visited a facility in the Bronx that is described as very similar to the one being pitched by Synagro Technologies for Detroit.

Mercado did dispatch someone to the hearing, but the presentation was a little less detailed than hoped for. Louise Lieberman, assistant director of wastewater operations, stepped to the microphone and said that a proposal had been received and that her department is evaluating it. Then she sat back down. End of presentation. It lasted all of 30 seconds.

The audience of more than 120 people sat there, stunned. You could almost hear the collective thought forming: That’s all?

The hearing continued on from there, with the company making its best sales pitch, members of the community talking about pollution concerns and the need for jobs, and a host of unionized wastewater treatment plant workers attacking the proposed project, fearing, among other things, that it will lead to a loss of jobs despite a guarantee that that wouldn’t happen.

Before gaveling the hearing to a close, Cockrel gave Lieberman a message to take back to her boss.

“We’re getting more than a little tired of the level of respect Mr. Mercado is showing this council,” lectured Cockrel. Calling Lieberman’s contribution to the evening “pathetic,” he told her to make certain that Mercado, who is appointed by the mayor, understood that the insult would not be forgotten.

In other words, Vic, cut the shit.

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