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Citizen groups to Duggan: Shut down Detroit incinerator

May 18, 2018

A coalition of groups is demanding Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan shut down the city’s controversial incinerator.

The groups, led by Breathe Free Detroit, delivered a petition with nearly 15,000 signatures to Duggan’s office Friday morning.

Ahmina Maxey, regional director for the group Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, says most of the waste burned at the incinerator comes from outside the city, but Detroiters suffer the most from negative health and quality of life effects.

“The incinerator is really like a textbook case of environmental racism,” said Maxey. “And Mayor Duggan should work with Detroiters to shut it down, to protect our health.”

Breathe Free Detroit also released a report from the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center Friday, outlining some of the environmental justice issues incinerator opponents frequently talk about.

For example, Detroit pays more per ton to burn its trash at the incinerator than many suburban communities, despite owning the land the facility sits on. The incinerator, which the report calls the “largest facility of its kind” in the country, has also been hit with hundreds of state-issued penalties for everything from exceeding carbon monoxide limits to odor violations.

Duggan’s office says the city has a contract to send its waste to the incinerator through 2021, and that any complaints about environmental violations should be directed to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in Lansing.

But Maxey and other supporters of shutting down the incinerator say Duggan can, and should, start laying the groundwork to transition Detroit away from burning its trash now. They note that at the 2017 U.S. Conference of Mayors, Duggan voiced support for a pledge to make Detroit a 100% renewable-energy city by 2035.

“I think that when the mayor decides something is a priority for him, he puts his time and energy into it. And what we’re trying to ask of him, is to put his time and energy into this,” Maxey said.

“It’s really about health. It’s about being a true zero-waste system. It’s about truly committing to having renewable energy, and getting us to a just transition away from these old, ancient dinosaur technologies.”