From the Headlines- June 6 – 10

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Dust and odor: Residents of Detroit’s Poletown East neighborhood seek to enter a host community agreement with the city concerning US Ecology’s hazardous waste facility at the intersection of Frederick and St. Aubin streets. “One of the issues at this facility is a continual problem with dust that is stirred up by materials they lay down on the ground,” says Rev. Sharon Buttry, a facilitator with the Detroit-Hamtramck Coalition for Advancing Healthy Environments. Since 2014, Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) have issued 35 violations for the facility, which US Ecology recently purchased from Republic Services. Activists say a host community agreement would give them a framework for having regular meetings with US Ecology and compel the company to support educational and environmental justice projects in the neighborhood. (WDET)

Sulfur suit: The Biden administration is suing a DTE subsidiary for violating the Clean Air Act by increasing sulfur dioxide emissions without installing pollution controls or obtaining a permit. The EES Coke Battery plant on Zug Island produces coke and “coke oven gas” which are used for steel-making. The government is looking to fine the company and order it to install emission controls. In 2018, EES emitted 3,200 tons of sulfur dioxide when it was permitted for 2,100 tons per year. Sulfur dioxide is a toxic gas that can exacerbate asthma and increase the negative effects of particulate matter pollution. “EPA recognizes the environmental justice concerns of community members in the River Rouge area, including a high asthma rate in the area near EES Coke,” the agency said in a press release. “EPA has an agency-wide commitment to advance environmental justice and deliver benefits to underserved and overburdened communities.” (MLive, Detroit News)

Rate rollback: The Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) will cut $6.7 million from an upcoming rate increase that was related to Highland Park’s water debt. (Highland Park disputes the charges from GLWA, saying it was overbilled for water and sewer service.) GLWA lowered its wholesale water rate increase for suburban communities from  3.7% to 3.4%. However, the sewer rate increase was cut from 2.4% to 1.2% because of the removal of Highland Park’s debt from the charge. Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller say the changes are insufficient and call on communities to withhold money from the utility. The rate changes will not affect the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department because it’s in a different rate class than suburban customers. (Detroit News)

Crime scene: A piece in Bridge Detroit offers a sobering account of the hit-and-run crash on Belle Isle Beach, which hit two children and killed one of them. Detroit activist Matt Hollerbach was present on Memorial Day when the accident occurred. He saw the driver accelerate as he left the road and drove onto the beach, where he estimated a hundred people were present. “There was blood coming out of every opening on her face,” he said of one of the victims. Scott Pratt, chief of southern field operations for the Department of Natural Resources, which manages the island, says the agency isn’t considering banning cars from the island. However, the DNR is performing a study on ways to reduce traffic and improve safety at the park. Public transit advocate David Gifford says the park could reduce the number of cars on the island by expanding bus service and using a shuttle service similar to the one used to bring visitors to the Detroit Grand Prix (or perhaps like the water taxis of days gone by). On Twitter, Gifford calls on the state to implement one car-free day on the island every month.  (Bridge Detroit, Crain’s Detroit/paywalled)

Old zoo, new uses: In less somber Belle Isle news, the DNR is asking residents to take a survey on how to use the site of the abandoned Belle Isle Zoo. Park users can rank various themes proposed by Michigan State University students, including honoring and exploring Belle Isle’s history, creating sustainable ecosystems, outdoor education, concessions, creative and performing arts in nature, interactive adventures and quiet space for retreat. (Detroit News)

Get outside: As part of Black Birders Week, a group of people of color met in Palmer Park to birdwatch and discuss the racism they sometimes face in outdoor spaces. “Birding has been a hobby that’s been largely the purview of well-to-do white people, and to this day it’s still very much that way,” said April D. Campbell, an experienced birdwatcher who led the walk. “There’s been some reluctance from a lot of the birding groups to be open in a way that affirms people of color in this hobby and make the effort to go where the people of color are.” Campbell recently started the group BIPOC Birders of Michigan to offer people of color more opportunities to get outside and learn about birding. (Bridge Detroit)

Where are the pumps? Nearly a year after flooding left hundreds of cars underwater on Detroit area freeways, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has secured funding for just four generators to power the pumps that lost power during that event. MDOT spokesperson Diane Cross says the state needs to secure generators for 141 pump houses, but the first four cost $7 million. MDOT will be getting another $60 million in Covid relief funds that it will use to install generators at all area pumps over the next four years. However, the agency will also need to buy land to put the generators on as well as build the structures to put them in. (WDIV)

Gimme shelter: Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) Executive Director Mikel Oglesby said at a recent meeting that the $51 million the department received in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding will go to system infrastructure, including fareboxes, vending machines for passes, and safety cameras and air filters for buses. Twenty million will also be spent on building 800 bus shelters throughout the city and $2.9 million will go towards improvements at the Rosa Parks Transit Center. Oglesby said none of the ARPA money will be spent on pensions, staffing or debt obligations from before the pandemic. DDOT is also doing a study to consider a low-income fare. (Detroit Documenters)


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