DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - A hazardous waste processing facility on the east side of Detroit has plans to increase its storage capabilities tenfold, raising concerns in the community.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality announced in July its intention to approve a new license for the US Ecology plant near the border with Hamtramck, which would allow it to increase hazardous waste storage from 64,000 gallons to nearly 666,000 gallons.
The deadline for public comments on the expansion proposal is Saturday.
The facility takes in chemicals from industrial processes as well as very low-level radioactive byproducts primarily from hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," a technique for extracting natural gas and oil from deep underground. Within a mile-and-a-half of the facility there are homes as well as a playground, two schools and several churches.
In an email to the Detroit Free Press, US Ecology spokesman David Crumrine says there haven't been adverse environmental impacts during the 40 years the plant has operated. The plant takes hazardous and non-hazardous, solid and liquid wastes from the automotive, steel, plating and other area industries, as well as retail waste, he said.
Waste is treated to remove or stabilize its hazards according to state and federal regulations, then shipped for disposal at offsite landfills. Liquids are treated until they are safe to dispose of via the Detroit wastewater treatment plant.
"The processes we employ at the facility present virtually no risk of groundwater or soil contamination," Crumrine said. "It is not a landfill. The facility is highly regulated and has the proper precautions in place, including redundant safety systems, to ensure waste material does not migrate off-site and into the water supply."
Crumrine went on to say the expansion is necessary to meet the changing needs of its customers.
But not everyone is keen on the expansion, especially considering the facility's location in the middle of an urbanized area.
"No need to worry - that's what they say. But we don't know that," 18-year-old Beverly Hayes who lives less than a half-mile from the facility and has six children in her home, ages 9 to 15 years, told the newspaper. "I'm not in favor of this at all."
Ed McArdle, conservation chair for the nonprofit Sierra Club's Southeast Michigan group, said such a facility should not be near neighborhoods and schools.
"These are the worst, nightmare chemicals of American industry," he said. "This should be in some isolated place; not in the middle of a city like this."
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