MDEQ chief ready to approve massive increase in hazardous waste in Detroit

MDEQ won’t limit US Ecology hazardous waste


Mid-December, the new chief of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), Heidi Grether, plans to follow in Snyder’s jackboots – disregarding public health, kicking aside elected officials and their attempts to protect public health, ignoring the demands of residents, scientists and environmentalists and placing big brother’s stamp of approval on a massive increase in hazardous waste processed and stockpiled at US Ecology (USE) waste plant in Detroit.

This stamp is pending despite: 1) public meetings and protests 2) a mass letter writing campaign to DEQ from scientists, residents, veterans, lawyers, and public officials 3) public letters of protest from the state representative, the Wayne County Executive, the Mayor of Hamtramck, the head of the Hamtramck School Board 4) unanimous resolutions by the Detroit and Hamtramck City Councils and 5) hundreds of residents and environmentalists meeting, protesting, marching, speaking at events, distributing thousands of fliers and posting yard signs loud and clear: Stop Poisoning Detroit!

In April, the City of Detroit hired scientists to assess the effect of the expansion of hazardous and radioactive frack waste on public health. No doubt the scientists were aware that when bromide from fracking waste combines with chlorine in the treatment plants a chemical is created that causes bladder cancer and miscarriages, according to a study in Environmental Science and Technology in the fall of 2014.  Negotiations between city officials and USE followed. “The City of Detroit asked the facility to modify the application to remove TENORM [radioactive waste from fracking]. The response was probably not, USE would like to leave their options open.” According to the summary timeline on DEQ’s website.

The approval will also come on the heels of a full page exposure in the Detroit Free Press by Keith Matheny on 11-17- 16 of 150 violations since 2010. The US Ecology waste plant on Georgia Street continuously violated EPA rules and the Great Lakes Water Authority permit. Records show USE:
• Dumped excess levels of mercury (3,500  times EPA limit), arsenic (350 times the limit), cyanide, “significant” amounts of titanium  — over 20 hazardous chemicals and metals into public sewers. (Note: hazardous = harmful to life)
• Violations at times lasted over a month – titanium lasted six months in 2013 – with no fine, punishment or even a request to stop operations by the water authority or MDEQ.
• Exceeded regulations on pH levels 322 times over a two month period in 2015 and failed to even once inform the Water Authority.

“Centralized waste treaters [such as USE]… have some of the worst compliance records of any type of industry that discharges into the wastewater treatment plants” according to DEQ’s specialist, Jodi Peace. Excessive dumping of toxic chemicals, metals and any radioactive waste from fracking, no matter how dilute, threatens the ability of the treatment plant to adequately clean the drinking water. This is a serious threat to the water supply of Southeast Michigan.  If U.S. Ecology can’t treat the waste they have now, why is MDEQ approving the ten-fold increase?

How much toxic waste is enough?

MDEQ’s answer is loud and clear — there are no limits to the amount of hazardous and radioactive waste to be dumped in this largely Afro-American population center in Michigan. Hamtramck, down the street from the facility, is the most densely populated, the most diverse and impoverished city in Michigan. Public health is not a consideration by MDEQ though they have repeatedly told residents that the toxins and the radioactive waste is safe. Elected officials, residents’ protests mean nothing. The MDEQ budget comes from taxes on industrial giants and it is from industry that they take their orders.

On the other hand, residents in the shadow of the US Ecology waste plants, the incinerator and other industries have been sickened from industrial pollution for decades. Trucks full of old tires or dead chickens dump their loads on vacant properties in the immediate neighborhood. The garbage, the industrial pollution of the air and water along with unbearable noise all hours of the day has caused PTSD, cancer and disability. The health of the residents, adjacent to the waste plants, and the value of their homes have been destroyed, making it difficult or impossible to move. They have demanded a health impact study and stand opposed to this expansion. They have been ignored, just like DEQ ignored the residents of Flint. Has industry no responsibility for destroying the health, welfare and homes of the residents living in adjacent properties? Residents need compensation so they can move to a safe environment, no matter what the outcome of this disastrous agreement. How can Detroit rebuild with two hazardous waste plants and an incinerator threatening public health in the heart of the city?

Deny the Permit!  No to the expansion! No Frack Waste! Stop Poisoning Detroit!

For more information: Coalition to Oppose the Expansion of US Ecology  www.

Also click here for more information on Detroit US Ecology Inc.