To: Detroit/Seattle Workers' Voice mailing list
July 13, 2017 (2)
RE: Protest the poisoning of Detroit's water supply

  1. No to bringing more hazardous waste into Detroit!
  2. A small victory over TENORM
  3. Excerpts from articles in the press about US Ecology

No to bringing more hazardous waste into Detroit!

Protest March Against Polluters!c

This Saturday, July 15, 11 am

Meet up at Wilkins & Russell parking area north of Shed 5

At Eastern Market in Detroit

And come to a public information meeting: Wednesday, August 23, 2017 -- 6:30 pm

[The time and place of this meeting were later changed]

Organized by the Coalition to Oppose the Expansion of US Ecology

.From the announcement of the protest march:

* Denounce MDEQ's pending OK of major expansion of poisonous waste at US Ecology in Detroit!

* Demand clean affordable water as a Human Right!

A waste treatment plant in Detroit plans a ten-fold increase in the amount of toxic chemicals it hauls in and treats and stores on site.  US ECOLOGY, 5620 Georgia Street,  is on the east side of Detroit, near Hamtramck. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality insists this massive expansion is both safe and legal and plans to rubber stamp their approval.

US Ecology, the hazardous waste plant, has violated EPA regulations on the poisonous chemicals it can dump into public sewers over 150 times since 2010. (DFP 11-17-2016). These violations, are illegal and harmful.

If the company cannot limit the toxins they discharge now, why is MDEQ ready to approve a massive increase?

Almost 3.2 million pounds of toxins were released into the air in the zip code around this factory (48211) in the year 2014 alone. And up to 300,000 gallons of hazardous waste is being dumped into public sewers everyday by this one facility. This is not safe. Hazardous = harmful to life.

Robert Wagner, the Deputy Program Director for the MDEQ, said that their agency doesn't have the authority or scope to monitor health data or the cumulative effect of the chemicals. In fact, no one has been monitoring the health of the residents during the generations in which chemicals have been brought to the site. Poisonous chemicals and radioactive frack waste threatens public health and the water supply in Southeast Michigan.

Protest waste dumping by calling MDEQ Chief - Heidi Grether (517) 284-6700  <>

A small victory over TENORM

While the struggle against US Ecology's processing of hazardous waste plants in its two Detroit plants (North and South) is going to be a protracted one, one small victory has been won. Seeking to cool down the opposition to its bringing of hazardous waste into the midst of a major urban area, US Ecology claimed that it wouldn't  bring in radioactive waste. Asked at a public hearing why, then, it maintained a permit for this waste, it agreed to drop it. It has now submitted a request to MDEQ to terminate the permit for handling TENORM, or "Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials", such as fracking waste. This concession wouldn't have been made without public opposition and participation in protests and hearings.

But the fight is far from over. We have been told that if US Ecology's expansion is approved, the company will demand permission for a big increase in what they are currently allowed to dump into public sewers (up from 300,000 gallons a day). We need to stay active, or else not only will this happen, but the concession on TENORM may be withdrawn. <>

Excerpts from articles in the press about US Ecology

Nancy Kaffer, columnist, in the Detroit Free Press, June 13, 2017 "More pollutants in Detroit? No thanks":

It's almost pointless to ask: Could this happen in Bloomfield Hills, or Grosse Pointe, or Ann Arbor?  ... This, at its core, is environmental injustice. Communities of color, places where most residents live in poverty, disproportionately bear the burden of the damage we inflict on our environment.

The company has a bad track record, a 2016 Free Press investigation found. State records document more than 150 unauthorized releases of "excessive" amounts of mercury, cyanide and arsenic into the sewer system.  ...

US Ecology's Georgia Street plant, on the east side of Detroit near the Hamtramck border, takes in the toxic chemicals that are used in industrial processes, and low-level radioactive by-products of fracking. The plant treats the chemicals until they're safe to ship out for disposal elsewhere, or to release through the Detroit wastewater treatment plant.

MDEQ and US Ecology officials downplayed the company's violations. A US Ecology official told the Free Press' Keith Matheny that 150 violations were infrequent, when taken against the total number of US Ecology releases each year. MDEQ officials noted that those violations didn't pose a threat to humans or the environment, or cause toxic outflows into the Detroit or Rouge rivers.

But such isolated analysis doesn't tell the whole story, Clift said: "Some of these bioaccumulate. As more gets into the environment they concentrate up the food chain" -- like mercury, a concern for fish in lakes across Michigan.

Nor, he said, do environmental regulations examine the layered impact of exposure to toxic or hazardous chemicals.

"They look at what if someone’s exposed to chemical A, what if they're exposed to chemical B. They never look at what if you're exposed to A, B, C and D at different times," he said.  <>

 Nicquel Terry in The Detroit News, June 6, 2017: Hazardous waste plans met with resistance in Detroit:

Detroit -- Wayne County officials, residents and community groups are rallying against the expansion of a hazardous waste facility in the city, saying it's a health risk to an area already plagued by poverty and sickness. ....

"It's just like Flint with the water, " [County Commissioner Martha] Scott said.  "We just allow poor areas to go unnoticed. You don't see any of these businesses  upscale communities. " ....

Detroit and Hamtramck city councils have also passed resolutions opposing U.S. Ecology's plans for expansion, officials say. [But these city council resolutions are for show, and don't do anything to block the expansion. Detroit City Council actually welcomes US Ecology's business and regards this as part of maintaining a pro-business atmosphere.--D/SWV]

Nick Leonard, an attorney for the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, said historically, hazard waste facilities have been disproportionately located in low-income communities with people of color.

In neighborhoods near the U.S. Ecology facility on Georgia Street, 65 percent of residents are people of color, 81 percent live below the poverty level and 31 percent are children, Leonard said.

"Because these communities have typically been viewed as the path of least resistance in regards to citing, undeniably, what is a highly undesirable land use, " Leonard said.  "There is a legitimate concern, from our perspective, that this permit would fail to adequately safeguard the public health and our natural resources. " <>

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Posted on August 25, 2017.