Calls for transparency grow near Michigan hazardous waste facilities

Posted at 4:35 PM, Mar 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-02 18:19:59-05

ROMULUS, Mich. (WXYZ) — Louise Pastula and her father Richard, call Romulus home. Six miles from their home sits one of Republic Services hazardous waste facilities.

“This is just a very very sad thing that this is in our community," she said.

The facility is one of the two sites that had been marked for toxic waste shipment from the Ohio train derailment. According to officials, some toxic waste made it to the site. The other site is in Van Buren Township.

“We’ve never been happy with (the site), but it’s here," Romulus mayor Robert McCraight told 7 Action News.

He said he took a courtesy call from Republic Services on Friday.

“They did reach out to us, and they’re a private industry. They did not have to call us and tell us what was going," McCraight explained.

"I would have like to have known ahead of time, a few more days in advance, but they did let us know what was going on there and they knew we’d take action as soon as they did that," he said.

McCraight said he called county, state and congressional legislators who put a stop to the shipments.

At Monday night’s city council meeting, Pastula expressed a common concern among local residents about transparency from the facility.

“You’ve got things coming into Republic every day and we have no idea what’s going in," she told council members.

People may not realize there is an EPA website that tracks what goes in and out of hazardous waste facilities nationwide. However, it takes 90 days for a toxic waste shipment to be entered into the system and that shipment is viewable to the public for up to 365 days. Also, "chemicals of interest (COI)" are not listed as directed by the Department of Homeland Security.

McCraight said, “Right now, they do track. You can go to the website and see what the manifest is and see what they accepted there and the quantities. But like you said, if you look at it now, you’re not going to see this report out until May. So, that’s actually a great point."

"We can forward that idea up and add that... more frequent reporting out there and that’ll increase transparency and it’ll let people trust the process a little bit more, I think," he explained.

7 Action News spoke with state senator Darrin Camilleri.

“The fact that no one got this clear information from either Ohio or from the environmental agencies directly to us, it’s because these companies did not have to tell us," he said.

Camilleri said reform is needed.

“We will look at reform. So, I’m excited to dig deep into the research and find the legislation that we need in order to protect transparency and ensure that our residents have the information they need when these types of situations arise," he explained.

Pastula said even if she knew what was coming into the facility in realtime and where it came from, she'd prefer the site be capped and shut down.

“Eventually, I don’t care if it’s 10 years from now, a hundred, 200 years from now, (the toxic waste is) gonna go somewhere and it’s probably going to come up," she said.

7 Action News reached out to Republic Services for comment. The company shared the following statement:

"We are a leading provider of environmental solutions for the recycling and disposal of solid and hazardous waste, with comprehensive compliance programs in place to protect our employees, our communities and the environment. Above all else, safety is our top priority.

The production of many everyday products generates wastes that are hazardous. For example, liquid waste from food, pharmaceutical and chemical production processes are routinely processed and stored at our Detroit Industrial Well, which we acquired in October 2019. Solid waste from several industries, including automotive and manufacturing, are safely and securely disposed in our hazardous landfill.

Our sites:

Detroit Industrial Well (Romulus)
The Detroit Industrial Well accepts liquid waste in compliance with all applicable state and federal requirements, and is equipped with the appropriate engineering and safety measures to ensure safe and responsible management of the material. The facility is routinely inspected by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

Wayne Disposal (Belleville) Landfill
This state-of-the-art landfill was developed in accordance with federal regulations and is the only commercial hazardous waste landfill in Michigan. It has strict safety and environmental measures in place, including multiple environmental monitoring systems, and is routinely inspected by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy."