Detroit shoots down proposal for potentially hazardous concrete crushing plant

It’s a rare victory for environmentalists — but residents aren’t celebrating yet

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click to enlarge Site of the proposed concrete crushing plant in Detroit's Core City neighborhood. - Vanessa Butterworth
Vanessa Butterworth
Site of the proposed concrete crushing plant in Detroit's Core City neighborhood.

The city of Detroit is preventing a controversial concrete crushing plant from opening in a predominantly Black and lower-income neighborhood on the west side.

The Detroit Building, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department (BSEED) on Tuesday denied Bloomfield Hills-based Can-Am International Trade Crossing’s request to operate the plant on 4.7 acres in the Core City neighborhood.

The city cited the “proximity of the concrete crushing to the neighborhood, lack of residential screening being proposed by the applicant, potential negative noise impact from heavy truck traffic, potential residential property value decline, and the adverse impact of particulate matter emitting from the piles upon the residential neighborhood.”

It is a rare victory for residents and environmentalists who have long complained that Detroit is disproportionately home to pollution-spewing industrial sites.

Activists said the proposed facility at 4445 Lawton St. would create dust, noise, exhaust fumes, and other chemicals within a block of a school, church, and an urban farm that provides food to more than 500 people.

Residents who live near the plant breathed a collective sigh of relief after learning about the city’s decision.

“The proposed concrete crushing facility location is so close to me, I don’t know want I would have done with all the pollutants, noise, and dump trucks driving past my house,” Joanne Arnold, who lives less than 500 feet from the proposed plant, said Wednesday. “It felt all too much. The neighborhood of Core City is an institution, not a sacrifice zone. My neighbors and I deserve better than that and I’m so happy the City of Detroit confirmed that for me today.”

The decision came about a week after protesters, including state Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, and Detroit City Councilwoman Gabriela Santiago-Romero, gathered to call on the city to deny the permit.

But residents aren’t celebrating yet. The company behind the proposal can still appeal the decision to the Detroit Board of Zoning Appeals by Jan. 3, and the site is still an environmental hazard, residents said.

“We still have a lot of work to win this fight and won’t be able to enjoy the holidays like we should,” Core City resident Vanessa Butterworth said. “First, we have to keep the pressure on to win a potential appeal and make sure the concrete crusher project is stopped for good. And, second, we need to get (site owner Murray) Wikol to clean up his giant mounts of broken concrete and dust on his lot. They tower over the neighborhood. When the wind blows hard, you can see the dust travel throughout the streets. It aggravates my asthma and as well as other aging neighbors who have very serious respiratory disease.”

Under the proposal, the CanAm International Trade Crossing plant would have received raw demolished concrete from throughout the state before processing and placing it in a raw stockpile up to 32 feet high. The plant would have also brought 50 to 60 exhaust-spewing dump trucks to the site a day, using roads that “are literally crumbling,” Butterworth says.

Residents were also worried about a nearby bridge that is deteriorating with exposed reinforcing steel. Another concern was that the area floods a lot and could turn the concrete dust and dirt into a messy, contaminated slurry.

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About The Author

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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