R.P. Lilly feels like singing. Not just any song, mind you, but a little ditty that former Monday Night Football commentator "Dandy" Don Meredith used to sing back in the early days of the show when it seemed certain one of the teams had a victory locked up.
"You may not remember," says Lilly, "But he'd sing, 'Turn out the lights, the party's over.'"
The next line to that Willie Nelson classic goes, "They say that all good things must end." But for Lilly, the only good thing about the end of injecting hazardous waste into wells deep beneath the city of Romulus is just that — it has come to an end. Otherwise, there's been nothing good about the whole fiasco.
It's been a long struggle. Lilly and others began opposing plans to build and operate the hazardous waste wells way back in 1993. He can't count how many hours went into researching documents, attending public meetings, contacting politicians and mobilizing opposition. Metro Times detailed that effort in an August 2002 cover story titled "Well hell."
Despite all sorts of opposition, the wells operated by the company Environmental Disposal Systems of Birmingham began operating in 2005. But they weren't operating for long. Less than a year after the facility began operation inspectors found leaks at the site and halted operations in October 2006.
Earlier this year, the EPA cited the company for 20 violations and issued $74,000 in fines. And then, last week, the agency terminated operating permits issued to EDS. That means, according to a press release issued by the agency, "Any new operator must start the permitting and public comment process from the beginning."
That was music to Lilly's ears.
"According to the EPA, these types of injection wells are supposed to last 10 years," says Lilly. "This one didn't last 10 months."
Lilly is especially critical of former Gov. John Engler, who pushed hard for the project's approval, even after the review board he appointed recommended it not be approved.
"Engler could have nipped all this in the bud," says Lilly. "I hope he's satisfied with the mess he made. This was his baby."
Opponents, who were characterized as "hysterical" and ignorant of the science involved, are finally feeling vindicated, says Lilly. "Now we know that what we found out in the countless hours of research we did was correct. These wells weren't safe and weren't needed. There are better ways to handle this waste. They just wanted to do it the cheapest way possible, shove it down a hole and worry about it later."News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]