Proposed expansion of waste facility on Detroit-Hamtramck border raises concerns

US Ecology would grow

By Priya Mann - Reporter, Amber Ainsworth

HAMTRAMCK, Mich. - A proposed expansion of a waste facility on the Detroit-Hamtramck border is raising health and environmental concerns.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is considering expanding US Ecology, and lawmakers and grassroots organization leaders are pushing for residents to speak out against the move.

Rep. Isaac Robinson, D-Detroit, said the company wants to increase the size of its tank from 64,000 gallons to 660,000 gallons.

"We need more people to stand up and say, 'Not in my neighborhood, not period,'" said Rep. Tyrone Carter, D-Detroit.

Those who oppose the expansion say they don't want the area to become a dumping spot for hazardous and radioactive waste.

"It's time for Michigan to stop being the dumping ground for the rest of the country," said Kathy Angerer, Hamtramck's acting city manager.

The lawmakers and activists who are fighting against the potential expansion said Hamtramck and Detroit residents are victims of environmental racism, much like Flint residents.

"Hamtramck is the most diverse, dense, most impoverished community in Michigan. Make no mistake, when corporations want to prey on communities, they look for people who are weak and may not fight back," Angerer said.

The lawmakers and activists also don't have much confidence in the MDEQ after the Flint water crisis.

"The politics is everywhere. This is a political decision, at the end of the day," Robinson said. "This is an alert to the community to show up and report all environmental conditions you hear about as it relates to this facility."

US Ecology released a statement:

"US Ecology’s Georgia Street facility is in the process of renewing its permit with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.  This type of permit renewal occurs every ten years and enables modifications to be made in support of possible customer needs during that period.

'The changes requested allow us to better serve our customers including retailers, local manufacturers and industry.  They would allow us to increase storage capacity from the low levels that are in the current permit but would not increase the physical footprint of the facility or wastewater discharge volumes of the facility.

"Per agreement with the city of Detroit, the Georgia Street facility does not and will not manage TENORM waste.  We entered into this agreement with the city 2 years ago as part of our effort to be open and transparent with the community. 

'The safety of the community and our employees is our highest priority and we are proud to do our part to help protect the environment by providing safe and responsible waste management solutions for our customers."

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