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E-M:/ Saturday Detroit Incinerator Meeting Draws Crowd

Former City Planner Says Detroit Shouldn’t

Build New Housing Near Big Polluter

Incinerator Opponents Meet To Plan Strategy


A former Detroit city planner Saturday said the construction of new townhouses across from the Detroit incinerator should not have been permitted by the city because the housing project will put more families at risk from the health impacts of air pollution generated by the incinerator. Hilanius H. Phillips told a crowd of residents packed into Detroit’s International Institute for a meeting on the incinerator that planners responsible for conducting environmental impact statements in the area of the incinerator have consistently failed to take into account the impact of the incinerator’s pollution on residents.


“The planners, at least for the last eight years, weren’t doing their job,” said Phillips. “The planners—right here, right now—need to be responsible.”


More than 60 people crowded into a room to hear Phillips and other speakers discuss the 17-year struggle to close America’s largest incinerator, responsible for discharging 1,800 tons of mercury and other toxins each year.  The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is considering the incinerator, located near Eastern Market and the I-75 and I-94 interchanges, for a five-year permit.  The public comment period on the proposed permit ends April 11.  Several environmental organizations are asking for improved emissions controls on the incinerator until it can be closed.  Detroiters pay nearly four times what most communities pay for disposing of their wastes because of a $470-million debt on taxpayer-supported bonds used to construct the incinerator in the mid-1980s, said Kevin Rashid, who helped lead the Evergreen Alliance’s campaign against the incinerator from 1985-1991.  The incinerator, which operates at less than half its capacity, is owned by the Philip Morris Tobacco Company and operated by Michigan Waste Energy. 


Jackie Victor, a Detroit business owner, helped organize Saturday’s meeting.  After hearing speakers residents broke into groups to develop strategies.  Donele Wilkens, Executive Director of Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, said the incinerator fight, for her, is personal.  She and her family live near the incinerator.  “I know what it’s like to wake up and smell that foul stench,” she said.  “I know what it’s like not to be able to open your windows at night.” 


Wayne County Commissioner Jewel Ware and representatives of the Sierra Club and Ecology Center attended the meeting.


David Holtz

Environmental Media Coordinator

Sierra Club

2727 Second Avenue, Suite 320

Detroit, MI 48201