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E-M:/ National EJ leaders join in Hamtram. EJ Report release

------------------------------------------------------------------------- Enviro-Mich message from Mary Beth Doyle -------------------------------------------------------------------------
May 4, 2001 Embargoed until 10 am

Donele Wilkins, DWEJ, 313-475-3369,
Rob Cedar, HEAT, 313-365-4722
Kathryn Savoie, ACCESS, 313-554-0378,
Mary Beth Doyle, Ecology Center, 734-663-2400

DETROIT--Local and national environmental justice activists today released a report that finds that disposal of medical waste in Michigan overwhelmingly burdens people of color and poorer people. The report's demographic analysis shows that minority, immigrant, low income, and vulnerable populations are all disproportionately located near the state's only commercial medical waste incinerator in Hamtramck.

Three Michigan organizations, the Michigan Environment Justice Coalition (MEJC), the Hamtramck Environmental Action Team (HEAT) and the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), commissioned the report. The report was released at a press conference at the Best Western Downtown. National environmental justice leaders Damu Smith and Dr. Beverly Wright joined local activists, Hamtramck City Councilman Phill Kwik, and ACCESS Community Health Center Director Dr. Adnan Hammad at the press conference.

"It is unacceptable that the burning of waste from hospitals-institutions of healing-is the source of pollution into our communities," said Donele Wilkins of Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice. "That safer alternatives are being used in Grand Blanc, but not at the Hamtramck facility, is a stark example of environmental injustice." The same company that owns the Hamtramck incinerator uses a much cleaner technology at its Grand Blanc facility, which is in a more affluent community with significantly fewer minority community members. The U.S. EPA has identified medical waste incinerators as a leading source of both dioxin and mercury pollution.

The groups are demanding that the Michigan Dept of Environmental Quality and Wayne County Air Quality Division take action to shut down the incinerator because of its long history of non-compliance. They are also calling upon area hospitals to stop sending their hospital waste to be incinerated, and to choose less-toxic methods of disposal.

"We never wanted this incinerator," said Rob Cedar of HEAT. "In its 10 years of operation it has had five different owners, and has never been in compliance with its emission tests. Hamtramck offers affordable housing but we shouldn't have to compromise our health by living here. Everyone has the right to breathe clean air."

National environmental justice leaders joined local organizations and Hamtramck elected officials in releasing the report. The report is being released in conjunction with a meeting of the National Black Environmental and Economic Justice Coordinating Committee (NBEEJCC), a 14 month-old network of Black organizers and policy advocates working to promote alternative economic development and opposition to environmental racism. NBEEJCC was launched at a national conference in December 1999 to mount a nationwide offensive against the conservative and right-wing assault on environmental justice policies and civil rights laws aimed at stemming environmental racism.
According to Damu Smith, a leader of the group, "the state of Michigan and Detroit were chosen as the site of our meeting and national summit because certain leading politicians in the state and environmental policies and decisions made here are being used in a major way to shape a reactionary movement and policies throughout the country against environmental justice."

The report is available at

Mary Beth Doyle, MPH
Environmental Health Project
Ecology Center
117 N. Division
Ann Arbor MI 48104

734-663-2400 ext 108
734-663-2414 (fax)

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