The MDEQ has agreed to host an additional public meeting regarding a proposal from U.S. Ecology that would allow the company to increase the hazardous waste storage and treatment capacity at its facility at 6520 Georgia Street on Detroit’s eastside. The public meeting will be held on March 28th from 6:00-9:30pm at Bridge Academy East (9600 Buffalo Street, Hamtramck). Starting at 7:30pm, the public will have an opportunity to provide comments to the MDEQ regarding the proposal. A full agenda of the public meeting in Arabic, Bengali, and English is provided below.
What does U.S. Ecology do?
U.S. Ecology owns and operates a hazardous waste facility located at 6520 Georgia Street in Detroit. It is currently permitted by the MDEQ to store 76,118 gallons of hazardous waste, and to treat 114,000 gallons of hazardous waste per day. The company accepts a wide variety of hazardous wastes from industrial processes.
The treatment process creates three main byproducts: wastewater, nonhazardous solid waste, and hazardous solid waste. Hazardous and non-hazardous solid wastes are disposed off-site. Wastewater is discharged into the Detroit sewer system in accordance with a permit issued to the company by the Great Lakes Water Authority. Discharges from the facility into the storm sewer system have exceeded the permitted levels on numerous occasions.
What is U.S. Ecology proposing to do?
U.S. Ecology is seeking a license from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality that will allow it to increase the amount of hazardous waste that it stores and treats at its facility on Georgia Street. The proposed increases are provided below:
Proposing to increase hazardous waste storage capacity from 76,118 gallons to 676,939 gallons (9x increase)
Proposing to increase treatment hazardous waste treatment capacity from 114,000 gallons per day to 432,115 gallons per day (3x increase )
Didn’t the MDEQ already hold a public hearing regarding this issue?
The MDEQ did hold a public hearing regarding U.S. Ecology’s proposal in 2015. However, it did not provide any translation services to Arabic or Bengali speakers despite the presence of Bengali and Yemeni communities nearby the facility. Many residents in these communities speak and understand limited English, and without translation services they were unable to learn about U.S. Ecology’s proposal or provide meaningful input to the MDEQ.
What is the MDEQ doing differently at this public hearing?
As a result of the advocacy of local Yemeni and Bengali residents, in partnership with the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center and the Coalition to Oppose the Expansion of U.S. Ecology, the MDEQ has agreed to provide translation services for both Arabic and Bengali speakers to enable such residents to provide meaningful input to the MDEQ regarding the proposed expansion of U.S. Ecology’s hazardous waste facility.
A notice and agenda regarding the public meeting in English, Arabic, and Bengali is provided below. The MDEQ will also translate all documents regarding this issue into Arabic and Bengali, will translate its presentation at the public meeting into Arabic and Bengali, and will have Arabic and Bengali translators available on-site at the public meeting.
What are the issues with U.S. Ecology’s proposed expansion?
The proposed expansion continues the legacy of disproportionately locating hazardous waste facilities in low-income communities of color.
Studies by Paul Mohai of the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Robin Saha of the University of Montana have found a consistent pattern over a 30-year period of placing hazardous waste facilities in neighborhoods where poor people and people of color live. These communities are often seen as the path of least resistance, because residents in these communities have fewer resources and political clout to oppose the siting of unwanted facilities.
Michigan is no exception to this general trend:
There are 10 commercial hazardous waste facilities in Michigan that accept hazardous waste that is generated off-site.
8 out 10 of commercial hazardous waste facilities in Michigan are located in Wayne county.
Collectively, 60,405 people live within 1-mile of the 10 commercial hazardous waste facilities in Michigan. 59% are low-income; 70% are people of color.
In short, commercial hazardous waste facilities in Michigan are concentrated in Wayne county and are disproportionately located in low-income communities and communities of color.
The proposal to expand U.S. Ecology would continue this disturbing trend. 10,021 people live within 1-mile of U.S. Ecology’s facility on Georgia Street. 81% are low-income; 65% are people of color.