Detroit incinerator owner to hold community meeting May 21

May 15, 2015 at 3:09 pm

The owner of Detroit's municipal solid waste incinerator, the largest facility of its kind in the nation, has scheduled a community meeting for May 21.

Detroit Renewable Power says the meeting will focus on improvements being made to the facility, which has been scrutinized for an overbearing odor problem. Last October, DRP signed to a consent judgment with the state to address the issue. 

And as a MT investigation last year revealed, it's quite an issue.

The state has issued 17 citations against DRP due to a persistent odor that affects residents in Midtown and Poletown since DRP took over the facility in 2010. During that same period, the state has logged over 170 odor complaints from residents, according to Schuette's office; in 2008, it received only four.

Ever since the incinerator came online in the 1980s, residents and activists have raised hell over it. Namely, burning trash carries an exceedingly high cost for Detroit, and the facility’s impact on the environment generates alarm among many. For instance, asthma rates in the immediate area surrounding the behemoth are 2.5 times that of the state, according to Data Driven Detroit.

The facility processes as much as 3,300 tons of trash per week at temperatures higher than 2,300 degrees. Its furnaces create steam that’s purchased by DRP’s sister company, Detroit Thermal, to heat and cool more than 140 buildings between downtown and New Center. The company is permitted to receive as much as 20,000 tons of municipal solid waste per week, according to the state.

As part of the settlement with the state, DRP will: re-engineer the facility by the end of 2016 with a new air ducting system; pay a $5,000 per day fine for any future violations under Michigan's Air Pollution Control law; and pay a $350,000 fine up front to resolve past odor violations, which has been deposited into Michigan's General Fund. 

In light of MT's story, a class-action lawsuit was also filed against DRP, seeking financial wards in excess of $25,000. That case remains pending.

If you have an interest in attending the community meeting, it's scheduled to take place Thursday, May 21 from 6-7 p.m. inside the Golightly Education Center, located at 5536 St. Antoine Street, Detroit. 

Ryan Felton is an investigative reporter for the Detroit Metro Times.