No can flow

Apr 3, 2002 at 12:00 am

After years of living with the stench and mess of industrial wastewater bubbling up into their basements, sinks and toilets, residents of Detroit’s Greendale neighborhood are fighting back. Last week, 60 households joined to slap a lawsuit on the Canadian firm that dumped in the neighborhood sewer system for more than 15 years. Steve Liddle, attorney with Macuga & Liddle, said he’s seeking class action status and “millions” of dollars in damages for hundreds of people who claim to have become ill because of discharges by Canflow Environmental Services. “We will win,” says Liddle, who filed the suit against Canflow in Wayne County Circuit Court. “The damages are horrible. There are lots of complaints of really toxic injuries, everything from asthma to cancer.”

Canflow representatives did not respond to several calls from us seeking comment.

The company, with offices in Petrolia and Windsor, Ontario, collects and disposes of wastewater from auto plants in Canada. Since 1985, Canflow trucked the industrial waste over the border to its discharge site at Greendale and Brush streets, near Interstate 75 and McNichols Road. Detroit’s Water & Sewerage Department permitted the company to dump thousands of gallons of the wastewater each day into the sewers. A Metro Times story in February revealed that though the company was permitted to dump only nonhazardous, oil-free industrial water, residents claimed the water was ridden with oily sediment, and city and state monitoring of hazardous substances in the discharges was lax. Last summer, fumes from the discharge were so intense the city fire marshal evacuated the block and residents became sick. Days following Metro Times’ story, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department denied Canflow its permit to discharge until a host of issues are addressed, including replacement of a dysfunctional testing station. George Ellenwood, spokesman for DWSD, said the company has not reapplied for its permit.

Residents have a hearing before City Council April 16 at 7 p.m. on the matter. Community organizer Vicki Burton said she wants the council to rezone Greendale for residential development only. “If we get the plant closed for good, that would be a blessing. We want Canflow torn down so no other company can come in here again and do this to us.”

Lisa M. Collins is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail [email protected]