Well of an ending

For nearly a decade, Romulus-area residents, civic leaders, business groups and just about anyone interested in protecting the Wayne County community have opposed a plan to dump millions of gallons of hazardous waste into deep-injection wells ("Well Hell," Metro Times, Aug. 8. 2002). Up to now, they have been successful in delaying an effort by Environmental Disposal Systems (EDS) of Birmingham. But it seems that their luck may have run out. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently granted EDS a permit that allows the company to inject up to 50 million gallons of hazardous waste into the Mt. Simon rock formation that sits thousands of feet beneath Romulus and neighboring cities.

EDS constructed two 4,700-foot-deep wells in Romulus and applied to the EPA for a “non-migration” permit. To obtain it, the company had to show that the waste injected into the so-called Mt. Simon formation would not migrate for 10,000 years.

The federal agency announced last week that the rock formation would in fact confine the hazardous waste for this time period, thereby negating any threat to the environment or human health, says Phillippa Cannon, EPA spokeswoman.

Folks living in the Romulus area are not convinced. Many, who have fought the project since its inception about a decade ago, fear the waste will contaminate drinking water.

But before EDS can begin dumping hazardous waste in the wells, it must obtain an operations permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), a process that could take a couple months, says DEQ spokesperson Patricia Spitzley.

If EDS begins operating, there is still a chance that it could be shut down. Sun Pipeline, which stores liquid propane in caverns beneath the earth, had planned to extract brine from Mt. Simon. But the DEQ is requiring Sun to first try a shallower formation. If that does not pan out, Sun will be allowed to use the Mt. Simon and the EDS permit will be “terminated automatically,” explains Cannon.

If Sun Pipeline does not put a kink in EDS’s plans, state Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, who has been very critical of the project, believes there is another way to shut down the wells.

“I am still hopeful that the Detroit Police and Fire pension board will divest,” says Basham.

The Detroit Policemen and Firemen Retirement System are the main financial backers of the project, having invested about $55 million into the wells, according to a document Metro Times obtained last year.

Contact News Hits at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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