Group fights for cleaner air in Southwest Detroit

Event to educate residents about air quality in Detroit

DETROIT – A coalition of organizations is holding an event in Detroit tomorrow to educate residents about air quality in the city.

The event is called the "Policy Advocacy Training" and will be held at the University of Michigan Detroit Center/Orchestra Place on Woodward Avenue. It will feature a number of speakers to educate residents on policy and how to speak to officials about air quality. It will be held from 9-3:30 p.m. and will include a number of speakers. 

"We now know through science that there are a lot of poisons that impact our health that are invisible," said Guy Williams, the President and CEO of the Detroit Environmental Justice organization. 

He says there are health-related illnesses in Detroit due to air pollution.

"Most people don't know that due to air pollution alone, two out of three people a day in Detroit are dying from air pollutant related illnesses and people think you can't have a healthy environment and good business and that's false also," said Williams.

Doctor Dolores Leonard has been fighting for clean air in her Southwest Detroit community for years. She says industry has always been a part of the neighborhood. 

"We took it for granted and didn't realize what it was doing to our health [when we were kids]," said Leonard. 

She researched to find the root of the problem. 

"I could go on, but we have a list of about 20 companies that pollute," Leonard said.

Some of the companies include DTE Energy and Marathon according to Leonard, though she added the community has been working with Marathon over the years to reduce emissions. 

"Where you are living and the environment in which you are living impacts your health," Leonard said. 

Leonard along with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the University of Michigan, the Sierra Club with Rhonda Anderson, are monitoring the air quality in the community through an air quality station, located outside of New Mount Hermon Baptist Church. Leonard said it's important for a number of reasons. 

"Children need to understand why they're coughing and they don't feel well and can't do their homework. Senior citizens have high hypertension and we have cardiac problems," Leonard said. 

DTE Energy released a statement that says the following in part: 

"It’s important for residents to understand that air quality has not deteriorated, but that new standards are significantly stricter that the previous standards. In fact, regional air quality today is the best it has been in 50 years. DTE has invested more than $2 billion in emissions controls equipment since 2005. DTE has reduced particulate emissions by 65 percent, sulfur dioxide emissions by 62 percent, nitrogen oxide emissions by 51 percent and mercury by 37 percent since 2005. DTE embarked on an ambitious initiative that will maintain our century old commitment of delivering reliable and affordable power to our customers while reducing carbon emissions by 30 percent by the early 2020s and by 80 percent by 2050. To achieve these reductions, we will incorporate substantially more renewable energy, such as wind and solar, transition our 24/7 power sources from coal to natural gas, continue to operate our zero-emission Fermi 2 nuclear power plant, and improve options for customers to save energy and reduce bills," said Brian Corbett, a Communications manager for DTE Energy. 

"Marathon also spoke to Local 4 and said Marathon has looked for ways to reduce emissions and from 1999-2016, the company made a 76% reduction in criteria air pollutant emissions. They added that they currently contribute to 3% of the air pollutants with their Detroit refinery, and the other 97% comes from other industries in the area."

About the Author:

Koco joined the Local 4 News team in September of 2016. She was born and raised in Metro Detroit, attended Central Michigan University, and previously worked at WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids.