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E-M:/ Romulus residents say No Toxic Well

Enviro-Mich message from mike garfield <michaelg@ecocenter.org>

Last night, over 600 people packed the Romulus High School auditorium to
urge state decision-makers to reject a hazardous waste disposal facility
proposed for Romulus.

The crowd was attending the first public hearing held by Michigan's Site
Review Board, appointed by Governor Engler to review a proposal by
Environmental Disposal Systems (EDS) to construct and operate a deep
injection well for liquid toxic wastes near I-94 and Detroit Metro Airport.

The arguments against the facility are compelling.  Michigan already has
excess capacity for liquid toxic waste.  A new facility would lower
disposal prices, and thereby discourage future pollution prevention and
source reduction.  Similar injection facilities have suffered catastrophic
accidents, leaks, and failures across the country.  The site -- plagued by
limited ingress and egress, and by proximity to the highway, airport, and a
residential neighborhood -- is poorly suited to the additional heavy
traffic. Transportation accidents could be especially dangerous given the
density of neighboring activity.  The company has a poor and untested track
record for managing a facility of this nature.  The community is already
heavily impacted by toxic exposures and waste facilities.  These arguments
and many others were lodged by Congresswoman Lynn Rivers, State Sen. Chris
Dingell, State Rep. Ray Basham, more than a dozen local elected officials,
the Sierra Club, Michigan Environmental Council, Ecology Center, ACCESS,
and scores of local residents.

The local opposition has been organized by Romulus Environmentalists Care
About People (RECAP), a feisty group of area residents who've been fighting
the well for eight years.  Despite physical intimidation, lengthly legal
battles, well-heeled political lobbying, the apparent demise and re-birth
of the proposal, the group has persisted in pressuring the state and feds
to deny EDS' application.  Last night, they led the audience in singing
Christmas carols ("Noel, No Well"), and brought in Phyllis Glazer, a
nationally known activist, to provide tear-jerking testimony about the
decade-long fight waged by her lower-middle-income, racially-mixed Texas
community to close a deep injection well.  RECAP has been led by R.P. Lilly
and Debbie Romak, the latter of whom has been elected to the Romulus City
Council during the course of the struggle.  The strength, intelligence, and
persistence of RECAP and its leaders has been truly inspiring.

In addition to the local impacts, this issue carries statewide significance
about hazardous waste disposal facility siting in Michigan.  The Site
Review Board, comprised of technical experts and two local representatives,
formerly carried final decision-making authority over haz waste proposals,
and, during the 1980s, denied 3 out of 7 proposals.  The Board has
exercised broad authority to deny proposals on various grounds.  When John
Engler stripped Michigan's boards and commissions of their critical role in
state environmental regulation, the Site Review Board was one of the few
bodies that was left in existence, but it was turned into a mere advisory
board.  The final decision on the Romulus site will be made by DEQ Director
Harding.  If I'm not mistaken, the EDS/Romulus process is the first
proposal that a Site Review Board has considered since Engler's
reorganization.  This Board's recommendation -- and Russ Harding's final
decision -- about the EDS proposal will set an important precedent for all
future toxic dump proposals.

The Site Review Board will be holding several future hearings to address
specific concerns in greater detail.  The calendar for those hearings is
not yet set.

Mike Garfield
Ecology Center
117 N. Division
Ann Arbor, MI  48104
(734) 761-3186 ext. 104
(734) 663-2414 (fax)

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