Officials, Residents Oppose Hazardous Waste Facility Expansion Plans

DETROIT (WWJ) – Wayne County officials and community groups are trying to keep a hazardous waste disposal business from expanding near Hamtramck.

WWJ’s Mike Campbell reports US Ecology is proposing a tenfold increase in the amount of hazardous materials that it handles at its Georgia St. facility, just off of Mt. Eliot on Detroit’s east side. That’s about half-a mile from a public playground as well as multiple schools and residential lots.

According to the Great Lakes Water Authority, the company has violated EPA regulations, releasing excessive amounts of mercury, arsenic, cyanide and other toxic chemicals into the Detroit sewer system more than 150 times since 2010. (An amount of pre-treated chemical waste is allowed into the system, in compliance with certain requirements).

The Wayne County Commission’s Health and Human Service Committee on Tuesday passed a resolution, proposed by Commissioner Martha Scott, urging the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to deny U.S. Ecology a permit to allowing it to build and operate additional units on Georgia St. The resolution will now move to the commission’s full board for consideration.

Local resident Michael Smith, whose house sits on a neatly kept yard about a city block away, is worried about consequences if the company adds to the quantity of contaminants on the site.

He told Campbell he’s concerned that chemicals could get into the ground, into the soil and into the water.

“They don’t ask for the information; they don’t ask for our input on what’s going on,” Smith said. “And that’s a concern right there.”

Smith said otherwise, at least so far, however, the company has been a good neighbor.

According to its website, US Ecology, Inc. is a leading North American provider of environmental services to commercial and government entities. The company takes in toxic chemicals from industrial processes, including fracking — offering treatment, disposal and recycling of hazardous and radioactive waste for its customers.

The Detroit News reports Scott Binder, VP of operations for U.S. Ecology, said during a presentation the company has an excellent safety record, is highly regulated and gets routine inspections by the state, Wayne County and Detroit. Binder also noted the city and county generate millions of dollars in tax revenue from U.S. Ecology sites.  “We clean up the environment,” Binder said.

The facility has been operating at the Georgia St. site for more than 40 years.

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