Environmentalists Turn to the Courts and the Ballot to Fight Detroit’s Incinerator Crisis

By Yessenia Funes Oct 24, 2016

In Detroit, a majority African-American city with a population of approximately 677,000 people, the country’s largest trash incinerator releases pollutants and dangerous odors continually into the air—and a local organization is now doing something to stop it.

The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center recently filed an intent to sue Detroit Renewable Power, which operates the facility, for 40 alleged Clean Air Act and state violations, reports the Guardian.

Per the Guardian:

The law center also said in the filing that the incinerator presents a clear example of an environmental justice problem, as a majority of the trash burnt at the facility is imported from outlying communities, which pay $10 a ton less than Detroit to dispose of garbage.

“In short, Detroit is subsidizing other communities throughout the State of Michigan, the Midwest, and Canada to dispose of its garbage at the incinerator,” the filing said, with the incinerator “located in a neighborhood that is composed mostly of low-income people of color and is heavily overburdened by air pollution.”

Sandra Turner-Handy lives three miles from the facility and was quoted in the article saying her granddaughter suffered from asthma when she attended a school near the incinerator, but she did not need an inhaler once she moved after graduation.

“It’s the things that you can’t smell that are the most harmful,” Turner-Handy told the Guardian. “And how do residents report something that they can’t smell?”

The incinerator produces energy through burning trash, but a ballot initiative which slated for the November 2017 ballot could shut down the facility. This would open the door for cleaner energy-producing methods. In the Guardian article, a spokesperson for Sustainable Detroit, a community organization supporting the initiative, says that the ballot petition doesn’t give the city an alternative to waste disposal, but it at least gets city officials to look at the problem.

(H/t the Guardian)