For too long corporate polluters have put the profits before human lives in Michigan. The corporation US Ecology has been seeking permission from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to expand its toxic waste disposal operation from 15,000 to 330,000 tons a day on Georgia Street in Detroit. The corporation transports, treats, and disposes of radioactive, chemical, hazardous and PCB waste from all over the country and then the liquid waste (arsenic, cadmium, cyanide, lead, etc.) is dumped into the Detroit public sewerage system.
The expansion is raising health concerns among our families, friends and those who live directly in the area. The facility is currently located within a mile of a number of schools, houses of worship, a hospital and even a senior center. One minor accident or fail in infrastructure could majorly contaminate the water and poison the entire city of Detroit, including surrounding suburbs that share the same water sources.
We, the Coalition to Oppose the Expansion and Michigan United gathered together and protested outside the state offices in Detroit on May 26th, and demanded a meeting with officials from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) on spot to discuss the need to put environmental justice first in Michigan. Our list of demands included:
- Stop the 10-fold expansion of this hazardous waste plant.
- Stop dumping toxic and radioactive waste and contaminating Detroit’s water.
- Continue forward with the CPP state implementation process and support Michigan efforts to move forward with the Clean Power Plan (CPP.)
- Conduct public input hearings in communities across the state that are most impacted by carbon pollution to hear how this pollution impacts our daily lives.
Valerie Jean of the Detroit Coalition Against Tar Sands (DCATS) initiated the conversation, saying “We are coming together to let the state of Michigan and MDEQ know that they have completely failed us on all fronts.”
Afterwards, I spoke on behalf of Michigan United. Because meanwhile in District 6 where I live, the area code 48217 is the state’s most polluted zip code, the Marathon refinery continues to expose residents to toxins that cause a wide variety of health problems. When President Obama decided to issue rules for energy production that would address such problems, Governor Snyder said Michigan would come up with its own CPP rules. But when the Federal plan was challenged in court, Snyder halted the process here. Our communities are being poisoned and for too long big dirty energy companies have profited from the destruction. They’ve left communities like Detroit with dirty air, poisoned water and dangerous, dead-end jobs.
Our Coalition wants the MDEQ to put the health of our people before corporate polluters and profits. We will not take any of the environmental racism and genocidal practices to destruct our communities anymore. The revolution will not be televised.
By Dortheá E. Thomas
Environmental & Climate Justice Organizer,