Abandoned industrial buildings in Detroit are riddled with potential contamination

Feb 17, 2020 at 10:45 am
click to enlarge Inside an abandoned building on Detroit's east side. - Anonymous tipster
Anonymous tipster
Inside an abandoned building on Detroit's east side.

Several abandoned industrial buildings on Detroit’s east side are riddled with potential contamination, Metro Times has learned.

Old industrial equipment is scattered across several vacant buildings on Miller and Selkirk Streets near Mt. Elliott Street, just blocks from a densely populated neighborhood, school and mosque.

At 11 a.m. today, state Rep. Isaac Robinson and local politicians and activists are gathering to demand an investigation of the abandoned properties.

The potential contamination was brought to light when Metro Times received anonymous photos of industrial equipment strewn about a recently abandoned building on Miller Street. Metro Times shared the photos with Robinson, a Democrat whose district includes the buildings. Robinson wasted no time inspecting the property, and on Sunday, discovered additional abandoned buildings with discarded industrial equipment, including metal drums used to store chemicals.

The city of Detroit is sending a crew today to investigate the potential contamination, mayoral spokesman John Roach tells Metro Times.

Expected to join Robinson at the press conference are state Reps. Tyrone Carter and LaTanya Garrett; Wayne County Commissioner Jewel Ware; Imad Hamad, executive director of American Human Rights Council (AHRC-USA); Rev. Sharon Buttry, of the Hamtramck Community Initiative; and Sam Alasri, of the Yemeni American Political Action Committee.

The buildings are in the same area where Michigan Department of Environmental, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) approved a permit last month to allow the expansion of a hazardous waste processing plant with a history of serious violations. At the time, Robinson said the approval smacked of “environmental racism.”

The state also is using the area to dump PFAS, a hazardous family of human-made chemicals used in many consumer and industrial products, such as firefighting foam, tanneries, cell phones, cookware, food packaging, metal platers, Scotchgard, and Teflon, according to Robinson.

“The discovery of all these potentially contaminated sites in the same area we have expressed concerns for 5 years, where EGLE is storing PFAS and authorizing increased dumping of toxic waste, demonstrates EGLE's complete disregard for the health and safety of our local residents,” Robinson says in a news release. “There is too much going on in this one small area, endangering families in our neighborhoods. No studies, no proactive steps to protect the public, just a policy of dump more here. As we celebrate new jobs at Flex-N-Gate, Dakkota Integrated Systems and GM, we must ramp up our efforts to protect these workers and local residents from these environmental threats.”

Metro Times couldn’t immediately reach EGLE for comment.

Robinson is among a group of Democrats who recently introduced a package of bills aimed at holding polluters accountable. The eight-bill package would stiffen civil and criminal penalties for companies and their leaders who contaminate the air, water, or land with harmful pollutants.

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