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Residents urge denial for permit to crush concrete next to Detroit neighborhood

View of property near Detroit's Core City neighborhood, where the owner proposed a concrete recycling plant.
Vanessa Butterworth
View of property near Detroit's Core City neighborhood, where the owner proposed a concrete recycling plant.

Residents in a Detroit neighborhood say the city should not give a permit for a proposed concrete crushing operation.

Vanessa Butterworth said she lives in the Core City neighborhood, directly across from the site where the concrete recycling facility on Lawton Street would go.

She called the proposal a glaring example of environmental racism, since most of the residents in Core City are Black.

"Concrete is full of silica, and when you break it down the silica turns into dust, and it's extremely toxic," Butterworth said.

Inhalation of silica dust over time can cause a condition called silicosis. The Centers for Disease Control describes it as "an irreversible but preventable lung disease."

Butterworth said those effects would be concentrated on people nearest the proposed plant. "The fugitive dust would go all over the neighborhood, all over the roads, all over our green space, into our homes, into the school that's neighboring it."

She said there would also be issues with noise from trucks hauling concrete and crushed concrete, as well as emissions from the trucks.

Murray Wikol is executive vice president of HMX Realty - Michigan, which owns the property. He said the site is zoned for heavy industry, and recycling concrete would be better for the City of Detroit than sending the material to landfills.

Wikol said only one side of the site has residences, and there are only about 20 households that would be affected. And he said the pollution from a concrete crushing and recycling operation would be much less than what's already in the neighborhood, due to its proximity to a freeway and other heavy industry.

"If we are stopped, then we'll take it to the next level, and look at our avenues to challenge this," he said.

The issue is currently before the Detroit Board of Zoning Appeals.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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