From the Headlines- Oct 24 – 28

Recycling hub: Detroit could become a nexus of recycling efforts in the lower peninsula with a new $35 million facility, which city Media Relations Director John Roach said would be located near the former incinerator site at St Aubin and East Ferry streets. Houston-based WM or Waste Management is planning to complete the development by the end of 2023, positioning it as a hub for recycling operations in surrounding communities. WM says the facility will create 50 jobs and allow businesses to expand commercial recycling and use recycled products. Michigan’s recycling rate currently stands at 19%; the state is trying to increase this to 30% by 2025. But it’s unclear how the facility will affect the Poletown East neighborhood, particularly if it means more polluting truck traffic. Residents here have spent years dealing with odor and air quality problems from the incinerator and US Ecology’s hazardous waste facility. (Crain’s, Axios Detroit, Detroit News, Planet Detroit)

Cumulative impacts: U.S. Rep Rashida Tlaib introduced a bill to protect communities facing disproportionate burdens from polluting industries. The Cumulative Impacts Act would require the Environmental Protection Agency to consider the total impact of permitting decisions and deny new permits to companies that would add pollution to already overburdened communities. “For far too long, corporate polluters have poisoned Black, brown, Indigenous, and low-income communities–putting profits over people’s lives,” Tlaib said. Environmental advocates have long criticized permitting processes that allow companies to emit pollution without considering the contamination already being discharged in a community. (Metro Times, The Hill)

Living with lead: Every morning Phil Shane wakes up and flushes the plumbing in his house on the west side of Detroit, where tests have shown lead in at least one test above the federal action level of 15 parts per billion. Shane’s family is one of around 400 households in the city with known lead service lines waiting for a replacement. Ten million in state funding could help the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) replace these lines by next summer, and $100 million in federal money is also on the way. But that still won’t cover the $850 million cost of replacing all the city’s estimated 100,000 lead service lines. City officials said they would prioritize to households like Shane’s with young children.  “We’re putting that plan together right now, but we want to prioritize the most vulnerable populations, which are where children are in the house, especially those that may be bottle-fed,” said Sam Smalley, chief operating of DWSD. Detroiters can arrange to have their water tested for lead by going to or calling 313-267-8000. (BridgeDetroit)

Out of mind in 2022? Although Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her opponent Tudor Dixon have argued over the fate of the Line 5 oil and gas pipeline ahead of the November 8 election, environmental issues have played a minor role in the governor’s race. This was a change from 2018 when Whitmer made water quality a key part of her campaign against Bill Schuette to respond to crises like widespread PFAS contamination and the Flint water crisis. But since then, issues like the pandemic response, inflation, and abortion access have overshadowed environmental concerns. “Everybody wants clean water, clean air, and they don’t want toxins leaching into their groundwater. But unless they are personally confronted with it, they just don’t think about it,” said Laura Schneider, a political science professor at Grand Valley State University. And yet the consequences of the race could be huge for climate action in the state, especially if Democrats gain control of the legislature, which could enable Whitmer to strengthen the state’s renewable energy standard, helping the state meet its goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. (Bridge)

Buying the farm: Greg Willerer and Olivia Hubert from Brother Nature Produce may finally get the chance to buy the land in Corktown where they have grown food for over a decade. The Detroit Land Bank Authority has agreed to sell 10 lots for $71,000. But since the sale involves so many parcels, City Council will have to approve it. “Are they (the council) going to approve it? If they don’t approve it, what next?” asked Jerry Hebron, co-founder of Oakland Avenue Urban Farm in Detroit. “I think it’s going to answer the question for us here in the urban ag community as to how valuable the city views the work that we contribute.” Many farms in Detroit have struggled to buy city-owned land, although land ownership could make them eligible for U.S. Department of Agriculture grants and services. Ownership would also give Willerer and Hubert the security to make long-term investments in fruit trees and hoop houses for year-round harvest. (Bridge Detroit)

Bus money: Michigan will receive $54 million in federal funds for zero and low-emission school buses, allowing 25 school districts to purchase 138 electric buses. The EPA said 99% of districts to receive funds across the country serve low-income, rural or tribal students. “This now will give a broader, bigger opportunity for both children to ride these quieter, cleaner buses, but it also will give more residents cleaner air because less diesel buses going through their neighborhoods, with the opportunity to experience and to witness quiet, zero-emission school buses,” said Susan Mudd, senior policy advocate for the nonprofit Environmental Law & Policy Center. “It simply doesn’t make sense to send our kids to school on buses that create brain-harming, lung-harming, cancer-causing, climate-harming pollution,” she added. (MLive)


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