Evans calls on state to reject emission, waste permits
Detroit — Wayne County Executive Warren Evans urged the state Wednesday to reject two company permit applications he said could expose communities to greater pollution from sites in southwest Detroit and Van Buren Township.
He said he is calling on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to “put residents first and ... reduce the negative environmental impact to our communities.”
He also said he has sent a letter to MDEQ Director Keith Creagh, urging the agency to reject the permit requests and revise the state’s solid waste laws to better protect the county’s residents and resources.
Evans, who was joined by Wayne County commissioners, municipal officials and community leaders, made the plea during a 1 p.m. news conference at his offices in the Guardian Building in downtown Detroit.
His remarks centered around Boise, Idaho-based hazardous waste disposal company US Ecology and Findlay, Ohio-based Marathon Petroleum Corp.
“While we’re pro-business and we really want businesses to grow, we really have to look long and hard at those businesses that have a byproduct that hurts the health and welfare of Wayne County’s citizens,” he said.
US Ecology has asked the MDEQ for a permit that would allow it to expand storage capacity at its Van Buren Township waste facility tenfold, Evans said.
He said the largest concern about the site, off Interstate 94 about 30 miles southwest of Detroit, is that it handles radioactive waste materials produced from out-of-state hydraulic fracturing operations.
“We’re concerned this proposed expansion will make Wayne County a sought-after dumping ground for this material by other states,” Evans said. “We don’t want to be the dumping ground for all the toxic waste that’s coming from other states. That’s not the kind of reputation I think Wayne County wants to have.”
David Crumrine, a spokesman for US Ecology, said the Van Buren Township facility primarily processes industrial waste from area customers rather than waste from oil and gas exploration activities.
“The requested increase in capabilities for the facility will allow it to serve the changing needs of the area’s industrial customers, thereby supporting the regional economy,” he said in an email. “The facility consolidates and processes waste for shipment to off-site landfills and is not a disposal site.”
He also said the company agrees with the county’s goals of protecting the environment and ensuring the health and safety interest of the county’s residents and businesses are addressed.
“US Ecology plays an important role in achieving these goals by providing safe and reliable environmental solutions to commercial, industrial and government customers,” he said.
Meanwhile, Marathon is seeking permission from the MDEQ for its refinery in southwest Detroit to release more sulfur dioxide and other pollutants into the air.
“The ZIP code where the refinery is is one of the worst in the country in terms of pollutants that are in the air,” Evans said. “Before (the MDEQ) even contemplates an increase in permitting, (it needs to) show us it’s making some concrete steps in reducing the pollution that’s already there.”
Company spokesman Jamal Kheiry said the permit is needed to meet new federal cleaner fuel standards.
“While Marathon Petroleum Company must make changes to its refinery to comply with the Tier 3 Fuels mandate of the U.S. EPA, we are sensitive to our neighbors,” he said in an email. “We are committed to continuing our track record of emissions reductions at our Detroit refinery.
“We are currently in talks with (Detroit) Mayor Mike Duggan and his environmental team to develop a solution that could result in no increase in sulfur dioxide emissions in our permit application to the MDEQ.”