Detroiters call for environmental protections caused by hazardous-waste plant

U.S. Ecology received two dozen violation notices for environmental contamination since 2014

Jul 7, 2022 at 1:05 pm
click to enlarge U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib speaks at a news conference outside U.S. Ecology in Detroit. - Steve Neavling
Steve Neavling
U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib speaks at a news conference outside U.S. Ecology in Detroit.

Dust, pollution, and noise are a way of life for Detroiters who live near U.S. Ecology, a hazardous-waste processing plant with a troubling history of environmental violations.

Now residents, environmentalists, and elected officials are calling on city leaders to do something about it.

U.S. Ecology is asking the state to renew its permit to operate on Detroit’s east side at E. Kirby and St. Aubin. Before the permit is approved, activists are urging Detroit City Council to enter into a host community agreement with U.S. Ecology.

The legally binding agreement would allow residents to demand transparency, accountability, and reductions in future environmental contamination.

“Today, we’re coming together to demand accountability and transparency. We need a legal agreement,” Rev. Sharon Buttry, a volunteer facilitator for the Detroit Hamtramck Coalition for Advancing Healthy Environment, said at a news conference outside the facility. “We cannot stand by and watch our children and elders choke on foul air and dust one more minute.”

Between 2014 and 2021, U.S. Ecology received two dozen violation notices from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) for contamination.

“US Ecology has received 24 violations from the state for repeatedly releasing noxious odors into the neighborhood and has proven incapable of operating this facility in a way that protects the health and welfare of the residents who live near it,” state Rep. Abraham Aiyash, D-Hamtramck, said. “We’re calling on the city of Detroit to take action immediately to protect residents from harmful pollution by enacting a host community agreement with the operators of this facility.”

Republic Services recently took over ownership of U.S. Ecology.

Pam McGhee, who lives near the plant, said many of her family members suffer from asthma that is likely linked to pollution in the area.

Enough is enough, she said.

“This is 2022. Why is this so hard?” she asked. “Why are our leaders not addressing this? We deserve better protection for our women, our youth and our future generations.”

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, said it’s inexcusable that communities in Detroit are often inundated with contamination, while suburban areas are largely spared.

“What kind of system allows the sacrifice of Black and brown and low-income communities for polluters?” Tlaib asked. “It’s a racist system — a system that we must dismantle.”

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