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"We will not be used as a sacrifice zone:" Detroit residents oppose concrete crushing facility

Core City residents with a "gift" for Mayor Mike Duggan opposing the proposed concrete crushing operation in their neighborhood.
Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio
Core City residents with a "gift" for Mayor Mike Duggan opposing the proposed concrete crushing operation in their neighborhood.

A Southwest Detroit neighborhood is rallying to oppose a planned concrete crushing facility.

Residents of Core City say it would be an environmental injustice to put the heavy industrial site in their residential neighborhood. They’re pushing Detroit officials to deny the facility a permit.

“We're here to tell them that we will not be used as a sacrifice zone for their own profit,” said resident Vanessa Butterworth. The company behind the planned crushing operation is Can-Am International Trade Crossing, owned by real estate developer Murray Wikol.

“This fight is about a predatory industrial developer taking advantage of an underserved Black and low-income community for his own profit,” Butterworth said. Wikol could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Butterworth and other Core City residents say they’re concerned about the environmental, health, and quality of life impacts the facility would have. It’s described in city documents as “a very high-impact manufacturing or processing facility.” Residents say they’re particularly concerned about fugitive dust escaping from the site, threatening nearby air quality, groundwater, and soil. They're also worried about the number of trucks that will be coming in and out of the site.

Andy Chae and his wife Amy own Fish Eye Farms, about a block from the proposed facility. He said they already work hard to assure customers that the food they grow and sell is safe, and this would make their urban farming operation more challenging.

“We also have a one-year old-daughter, and we're planning on staying in this neighborhood for as long as we can,” Chae said. “And having this concrete crusher near our farm is really going to impact how we do business here in the city.”

Residents also point out that the would-be manager of the crushing operation, Vaughn Smith, has been cited at least four times for state environmental violations at other, similar facilities since 2020.

State Senator Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) said the city and state need to do a better job in general about listening to residents when it comes to environmental justice issues.

“We need to do better and to make sure that we're thinking about environmental justice,” Chang said. “But in the meantime, the city of Detroit needs to make sure that they do the right thing and reject this permit, and make sure that they are listening to the residents of this neighborhood who are saying loud and clear that they do not want this concrete crushing, and that they deserve a future where they can breathe clean air and have a good quality of life.”

The site where the facility would be located is zoned for heavy industry. But it’s also considered a “conditional use,” which means it requires city approval to operate there. Core City residents are also pushing for Detroit to forbid the heavy industry zoning designation in residential neighborhoods, and have gathered more than 1100 petition signatures opposing the plant.

Detroit’s Buildings, Safety Engineering, and Environmental Department (BSEED) will make the call on a permit. Officials are expected to do so within the next week. But Core City residents expect that whichever way they rule, the losing side will appeal, taking the ultimate decision to Detroit’s Zoning Board.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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