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Hazardous waste facility in Detroit wants to expand, neighbors want more information


Plans to expand a hazardous waste facility have sparked worries from residents in a Detroit neighborhood.

The US Ecology facility site has been processing and temporarily storing hazardous waste on Detroit’s east side for decades.

That includes toxic chemicals and other byproducts from nearby industrial facilities.

It also includes waste byproducts from oil and gas hydraulic fracturing operations, which can contain low levels of radioactive waste, but aren’t considered “hazardous.”

US Ecology now wants to expand its capacity at the site ten-fold. Some residents and officials want more information before things go forward.

State Rep. Rose Mary Robinson, D-Detroit, said residents need to know more before the proposed expansion moves forward.

“I think people should know as much as possible about the increase in volume of toxic waste, the nature of the toxic waste, and the impact on the community’s health,” Robinson said.

“My concern is the impact on the community if they increase the processing and storage ten-fold.”

The site is zoned industrial, but Robinson said there are several schools, playgrounds, churches and mosques in the surrounding residential area.

State regulators say they’ll review public concerns before re-authorizing a permit.

The site has a “solid operating history,” according to Brad Wurfel, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The MDEQ will consider all public comment about the expansion, Wurfel said, but has “no reason to deny” a new permit if there’s a history of compliance and no evidence of health or environmental damage.

The public comment period on new permit conditions had already been extended. It ends tomorrow, Sept. 12.  

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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