Residents complain about odor around Detroit incinerator on city's east side

Neighbors say smell is getting worse


DETROIT – Residents living near the Detroit incinerator said an odor is only getting worse and something needs to be done to fix it.

The lion's share of trash in the city of Detroit goes to one place: the Detroit incinerator at I-75 and I-94. Neighbors in the area said over the years the smell from it has just kept getting worse.

The city of Detroit no longer owns its incinerator. A new company took over its operation last year, but the company admits it needs to do more to harness the odor it emits and says it is working on it.

It's one of the largest plants of its type in the country, but new chief operating officer Mike Marr wants to make something clear out of the gate.

"We're not an incinerator," Marr said. "We are a waste management facility, which means we're burning waste and making electricity and we make steam, both of which are useful energy forms for the city."

Incinerators only burn trash to reduce the amount of trash volume. This plant burns the trash and then converts it to energy, making the steam we see rising from city streets, along with making electricity.

"On given days when we want to have an outdoor outing, if the wind's blowing the wrong way, it does bother us," neighbor Gregory Moore said.

Moore said outdoor activity quickly turns into indoor activity.

The plant operates under a consent agreement with the state because it's not operating within emissions guidelines and odor issues. Marr said that's about to change.

"The new owners are really committed to making the plant run well and be a good neighbor, so we've got plans to address the odor issues and we've taken some steps in the last month or so," Marr said.

He's brought in two different companies that have done studies to help decide what needs to be done to meet state requirements. It will include spending much more money and making the neighborhood smell much better.

The plant will add new equipment to neutralize the smell. It's a complicated process that involves, in some cases, sending the air they used to send out the smokestacks back into the furnace to be burned at 1,800 degrees. They'll also be adding other odor neutralizing equipment, officials said.

About the Authors: