Friday, January 31, 2020

Hazardous waste plant in Detroit with history of serious violations gets state approval to expand almost ninefold

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2020 at 11:36 AM

  • Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy
  • US Ecology property area.

A hazardous waste processing plant with a history of serious violations on Detroit’s east side has received state approval to drastically expand its toxic waste storage facilities.

The state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) issued the 10-year permit Wednesday to US Ecology over the strong opposition of residents.

Since September 2010, the plant at Georgia Street near the Hamtramck border has been cited more than 150 times for releasing excessive amounts of arsenic, cyanide, mercury, and other toxic chemicals into the city’s sewer system, according to a Free Press review of Great Lakes Water Authority records. The company also failed to properly explain past violations and provide solutions to avoid reoccurrences as required by its permit.

The permit, which took more than five years to obtain, allows US Ecology to “continue existing operations, construct and operate two new buildings for storage and treatment, and repurpose an existing building." Under the permit, the plant can increase its storage of toxic waste almost ninefold, from 76,118 gallons to 677,000 gallons.

The facility treats or stores heavy metals, sludge, pickle liquor, cyanide, hydrochloric acid, and even wastes containing low levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), according to EGLE records.

EGLE insisted it had no choice but to approve the expansion because the company has been in compliance. But records suggest otherwise.

The state approval comes a week after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer created the state’s first Environmental Justice Advisory Council, which is aimed at protecting residents.

Detroiters are disproportionately subjected to environmental contamination and have the highest rates of asthma in Michigan. Southwest Detroit is the most polluted area in the state and was the subject of a Metro Times cover story on Jan. 8.

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