Workers' Voice mailing list
March 27, 2019
RE: Speak out Thursday, March 28th, against the poisoning of Detroit!
Thursday, March 28th
Bridge Academy - 9600 Buffalo St Hamtramck
(At a school less than a block from the plant.)
Parking space available behind the school.
6 pm - Open House
6:45 pm - MDEQ information session
7:30 pm - This is the crucial PUBLIC COMMENT period when people can speak against the expansion
Residents of this Eastside Detroit and Hamtramck community are requesting your support in this battle against a massive build-up of infrastructure to process and store toxins in this neighborhood. Few residents knew about the plans for expansion of the toxic waste plant deceptively called "US Ecology". The immigrant community knew even less due to language barriers. This meeting is an attempt to rectify this and allow the entire community and all supporters to have their say.
Below are three articles with background information prepared by the Coalition to Oppose the Expansion of (the toxic waste plant run by a firm misleadingly called) US Ecology. For more information about the Coalition, see https://coalitionstopuse.weebly.com. <>
Protecting our drinking water has been a key reason for opposing the expansion of this hazardous waste plant. Why be concerned about our water?
US Ecology dumps up to 300,000 gallons of treated waste into the public sewer system every day. Treatment is not always effective. Excessive amounts of toxic chemicals and metals do get into the sewers and make their way into homes, businesses and the Detroit River.
The Detroit Free Press carried a front page spread 11-17-16 on violations of EPA regulations in the years 2010 through 2016. Some facts from Keith Matheny's research:
• US Ecology released excessive amounts of mercury, arsenic, cyanide and at least 20 other toxins, into the city sewer system more than 150 times.
• At least 23 violations lasted over a month
• Mercury levels were found at 2.5 times the limit. Mercury accumulates in water and fish and on up the food chain. Arsenic was found to be 350 times the limit. Titanium levels were in violation for six straight months in 2013.
• US Ecology was in violation 8-10 months every year from 2011-2015
• When a sample showed an excessive amount of a toxin, Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) requested another sample. When the company handed in a test tube, they were considered to be "in compliance" without even a violation notice. Then they went right back into non-compliance according to records.
• Also in a two-month period between 10-7-15 and 12-6-15, 322 instances of elevated pH were found. The company neglected to report these excesses to either the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department or GLWA. High pH levels lead to toxic algae blooms, undrinkable water, and makes the water more difficult to treat. Clearly US Ecology cannot even be trusted to inform the public agencies responsible for protecting the residents and our water system.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has stated that they will grant approval of US Ecology's request to expand because the company's handling of toxins is both "safe" and "legal." Every fact cited above is evidence that the company's handling of hazardous waste is neither safe nor legal. The transporting, processing and storing of toxic waste in Detroit and Hamtramck is a threat to the health and safety of the community.
The Coalition submitted a Freedom of Information request last year to update our information on the company's violations. More recent information shows a continued pattern of discharges of excessive levels of copper, lead, arsenic, mercury and other toxins into the sewers. It is further evidence that this industry cannot control the excesses and must be denied permission to expand. <>
We have been fighting against this expansion of US Ecology because we are concerned about the health of residents. We know that asthma rates, low birth weights and infant mortality are higher for children in the Detroit area than anyplace else in the state. And higher still for Afro-Americans. We know that Wayne County residents have a higher premature death rate than other counties in Michigan. We are all affected by the air we breathe and the water we drink. And Wayne County is the most polluted county in Michigan, inundated with toxic chemicals in our air, water and soil. We must protect our communities from the building up of massive infrastructure at US Ecology. Say NO to the 10-16 fold increase in toxins into our community.
No health impact study
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has responded that monitoring the health of the residents "is beyond the scope of our licensing process." No government agency is monitoring the health of the residents.
A Deputy Program Director of MDEQ said there is no scientific research on the cumulative impact of toxins. And that they only have scientific data on individual chemicals. So they go ahead and approve permits without knowing the harm industry is causing the residents.
Our health is at risk
• There are 117 industries that disperse poisonous chemicals into the air in Wayne County which is the most polluted in Michigan.
• A truck a week spills poisons in southeast Michigan.
• The company dumps up to 300,000 gallons of liquids into public sewers every day.
• US Ecology does not even test the soil or groundwater - and MDEQ has approved this waiver. This waiver must end! <>
1- "US Ecology", the hazardous waste plant, is located at 6520 Georgia Street, east of Mt. Elliott, in Detroit, just across the border from Hamtramck. The company requested a permit to expand their operations almost 4 years ago. All this time MDEQ has reported that US Ecology wants to increase the storage capacity of hazardous waste by 10 X their current load. That is bad enough. But now MDEQ's website shows that the company plans to increase storage capacity by 16.5 times. The company will also be allowed to process up to 600 tons of hazardous waste per day and bring into the plant new and more dangerous chemicals if this permit is signed. This is the same state agency that allowed the poisoning of Flint.
(See MDEQ's website on US Ecology's proposed permit:
https://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,4561,7-135-3312_4118_4240-359331--,00.html. Action Summary at the bottom of the page.)
Demand that MDEQ denies the permit! Stop the Poisoning of our Communities!
2- MDEQ organized two small public hearings in 2015 - one in Hamtramck and one in Detroit. They sent out only a handful of postcards, so most of the community never heard about it. No translators were there to include the community of immigrants into the discussion. And not a single piece of information was translated into Arabic, Bengali or Bosnian.
3- Representative Rosemary Robinson spread the word and warned the community of the danger of this expansion. She pointed out that the plant is surrounded by schools, mosques, churches and many homes. And she asked who is monitoring the health of the residents? We want to keep these poisons out of the most populated area of Michigan!
4- In the fall of 2015, community groups and environmentalists organized a protest at the plant, passed out fliers and spread the word. Hundreds of residents, scientists and environmental activists wrote letters or emails to MDEQ protesting this threat to the community. The Coalition to Oppose the Expansion of US Ecology, a grass roots organization, was formed and has been fighting this ever since. We knew nothing about this plant. All we knew is that we didn't want more poisons in Detroit and Hamtramck that could harm the health of the residents. This is what we have learned that we want to share with you.
5- Wayne County is the most polluted county in Michigan. There are 117 factories that release poisons into the air. In 2016 alone, 116 million pounds of toxins were released into the air in the county (according to the EPA's Toxic Release Inventory, which you can find online). This facility has been dispersing toxins into the environment for decades and more and more toxins are released every year into the air we breathe. Stop Polluting the air!
6- Despite the fact that US Ecology handles toxic waste in the middle of the Detroit on the boundary with Hamtramck, MDEQ has given the company a waiver on the testing of soil and groundwater. No testing of soil has been done at this site since at least 1989 (30 years) and no testing has been done of groundwater at this site since 2003 (16 years). (Nick Leonard, Director of WSU's Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, submitted a letter of protest to MDEQ on this issue.) The company, "US Ecology", must be made to test the soil and groundwater!
7- With the help of Michigan Citizens for Water Conserva0tion we took some samples of the soil around the plant in the summer of 2017. The largest lab in Michigan found high levels of arsenic, copper, diesel, lead and other poisons in the soil. A representative from MDEQ basically said - so what, it's like that all over Detroit. So they are admitting that they know Detroit is polluted. Yet they want to bring in more poisons. This is environmental racism! Detroit and Wayne County have been burdened by the regions waste. It's time to stop!
8- Then there is the problem with the liquid waste that the plant dumps into the public sewers. They are allowed by contract with the Great Lakes Water Authority to dump up to 300,000 gallons of treated waste into the sewers every day. In a Detroit Free Press Article (11-17-16) elevated levels of arsenic, mercury, cyanide and at least 20 other toxins were found in water samples taken from the sewer in front of the plant. We must protect our water for future generations!
9- Last summer Rosemary Robinson wrote a letter to then-Governor Snyder requesting another public hearing on US Ecology. MDEQ said no. Then Nick Leonard wrote a protest to MDEQ pointing out that the immigrant community was kept out of the public discussion due to language barriers. MDEQ made no effort to translate anything or bring in translators for the public meetings. And that that is illegal. So MDEQ has now agreed to a public meeting, with translators, which will be held: Thursday, March 28th 6-9 pm Bridge Academy.
10- Come to the public meeting and speak out! We have raised three main demands over the last three plus years:
• No to the expansion!
• Keep radioactive waste out of this plant! The company and the city have agreed to this, and it is now part of the Community Host Agreement. But the state says the company can process radioactive waste again whenever they want.
• Monitor and protect the health of the residents! <>
* The article "Amazon billionaires run when NY masses fight" in the March 16th list appears corrected at https://www.communistvoice.org/DSWV-190316.html. The main change is that the sentence "Its CEO, Jeff Bezos, makes $164 million/year." is replaced with the following:
Its CEO, Jeff Bezos, made over $100 million *per day* in 2017 and up to Sept. 2, 2018, raising his net worth to an astounding $166 billion. Later Bezos "cooled off", and his net worth was estimated by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index at $147 billion.
* The last two sentences were accidentally omitted from the article "Stand against Islamophobia and hatred". They are
Standing together, against the hatred aimed to divide us, strengthens our struggle against the pollution of our communities and our water. And reaffirms the need for human dignity for all.
(The corrected version is at https://www.communistvoice.org/DSWV-190321.html) <>
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Posted on March 31, 2019
Some typos have been corrected.