Plans to expand storage at Detroit hazardous waste facility prompt community concerns

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DETROIT — 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 Detroit Free Press reported ( ).

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.

"No need to worry — that's what they say. But we don't know that," said Beverly Hayes, 48, who lives less than a half-mile from the facility, formerly owned by Dynecol, and who has six children in her home, ages 9 to 15 years. "I'm not in favor of this at all."

In an email, US Ecology spokesman David Crumrine said 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, the newspaper said. 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, noting there are "redundant safety systems, to ensure waste material does not migrate off-site and into the water supply."

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."

Information from: Detroit Free Press,

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