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Protesters keep up the fight against U.S. Ecology Detroit expansion

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Some Detroit lawmakers and residents are keeping up the fight against the proposed expansion of a hazardous waste facility.

A state permit to allow U.S. Ecology to expand its Detroit operationten-fold has been pending for years. The facility has stored and processed hazardous waste there for decades.

But State Rep. Isaac Robinson (D-Detroit) says it has a history of environmental violations and shouldn’t be allowed to expand. Opponents are concerned that the chemicals stored there, including a low-level radioactive fracking waste product known as TENORM, will leak into the groundwater.

Robinson says opponents just recently found out the facility is storing PFAS waste.

“PFAS is being stored right here on Georgia Street in the city of Detroit,” Robinson said at a protest Friday in Hamtramck, “and this is a forever chemical that won’t break down. It’s a killer.”

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy confirmed the Detroit facility is holding PFAS chemical products, including firefighting foam from PFAS remediation projectsaround the state, before they’re shipped out of state for remediation.

U.S. Ecology has said in the past that its expansion is largely about increased storage capacity, and not more waste processing. It’s also said that its history of chemical discharge violations are largely minor and in the past.

An EGLE spokesman says there’s still no solid timeline for when the department may approve U.S. Ecology’s permit to expand.

But State Rep. Cynthia Johnson (D-Detroit) says it should never happen because Detroit already has too many environmental hazards.

“You’re talking storing toxins and storing poison in our city. And we’re just saying, we’re tired of it,” Johnson said. “It’s got to stop.”

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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