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How close to homes & schools should hazardous waste be processed?

Posted: 6:23 PM, Jun 15, 2016
Updated: 2016-06-15 22:24:05Z

It is a business that handles some of the most toxic waste there is, and it is asking the state to let it increase storage capacity ten-fold.

U.S. Ecology which is located in Detroit, just outside of Hamtramck, wants to increase hazardous waste storage from 64,000 to 666,000 gallons.

"Why choose to take this risk here, where so many things can go wrong?” asked Jennifer Ingalls, as she spoke out at a meeting of concerned residents today.

They ask why the state would allow any such hazardous waste in the community, and offer a theory.

“Because we are a poor neighborhood,” said Mark Covington, who has lived less than a mile from the plant for decades.

Covington says he is worried the plan won’t just impact his community, but everyone on the Detroit Water System. The plant has a permit to dispose of processed liquid.

Covington says he fears unprocessed liquids end up already in the water system.

“I have personally seen foam coming out of the sewers and workers coming out in Tyvek suits, coming out and rinsing it down,” said Covington.

“I don’t want another disaster like we saw in Flint with the water,” said Saba Muzib, a mom to two children.

She and other families voiced concerns that the plant is close to a couple of schools, including Dickinson East Elementary School in Hamtramck, where her 9-year-old daughter goes. It is 1.4 miles away. 

She worries about what would happen if there were a fire or leak at the facility.

“I don’t want her to be poisoned,” said Muzib.

"I worry about leaks. I worry about the water. I worry for my family’s health, especially my son,” said Pashko Gjohaj, another parent.

7 Action News reached out to US Ecology.

It says the Detroit Facility is not a landfill, but is designed to safely process hazardous waste, has never jeopardized the environment in 40 years of operation, and any liquids discharged meet stringent standards.

"US Ecology’s mission is to protect and improve the environment by providing safe and reliable environmental solutions to commercial, industrial and government customers.  Our highly trained professionals operate facilities equipped with state of the art systems specifically designed to safely manage industrial and hazardous waste. Our highest priorities are safety and protection of human health and the environment,” said a part of statement from Dave Crumrine, Corporate Marketing Director at U.S. Ecology.

"In the renewal application, US Ecology requested some changes to  accommodate the changing needs of our customers,” continued the statement.  "As automotive, manufacturing and other Michigan industrial companies increase production or change production processes, companies, such as US Ecology, support their waste management needs by providing safe and responsible alternatives.  The modification request reflects changes in where and what type of waste we can process within the existing facility infrastructure but does not increase the overall processing capacity.  US Ecology does not anticipate an increase in total waste volumes managed at the facility."

The MDEQ meantime is still deciding whether to allow it.

It released a statement saying, "We appreciate the passion around this issue, and we are committed to prioritizing the protection of public health and the environment as we make this decision.”

Residents who met today to fight an approval are making sure their voices are heard online at coalitiontostopuse.weebly.com