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Enhanced community engagement key factor in license review for U.S. Ecology Detroit North license renewal process

Community meeting on US Ecology Detroit North relicensing and expansion

Meaningful engagement of affected residents is a key step in the multi-step process that occurs when the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) reviews a company's application for any new permit or a relicensing permit.

So when U.S. Ecology Detroit North submitted its revised relicensing and expansion application in 2013, two separate public meetings were scheduled, and two lengthy public comment periods were opened. Comments submitted during the enhanced public participation process were considered by the project team, hazardous waste section manager, and EGLE's Materials Management Division Director in the formulation of the final decision.

As part of that process, key documents were translated into Arabic and Bengali to make them accessible to all community members. The Notice of Final Decision, Fact Sheet, and Responsiveness Summary were been posted in three languages to the U.S. Ecology Detroit North Hazardous Waste Licensing Information webpage.

Based on the numerous comments EGLE received by listening to concerned community members and stakeholders, conditions were added to U.S. Ecology Detroit North's license, including limiting the number of hazardous waste vehicle deliveries to 45 per day, designating a specific truck route to and from the facility, and requiring an updated waste analysis plan.

EGLE also has posted an Environmental Report Card on the U.S. Ecology Detroit North webpage, where stakeholders can monitor facility emissions, including effluent and ambient air.

The company's license — approved last month — also has conditions specific to its storage and treatment operations at its Georgia Street location to ensure proper oversite of existing and proposed buildings, storage, and treatment methods. Under the license, the company can construct and operate two buildings for storage and treatment, and repurpose an existing building.

In vetting U.S. Ecology Detroit North's license application, EGLE determined that it protects public health and the environment by minimizing the risks associated with the hazardous wastes being stored and treated at the facility. The renewal application meets the technical design, construction, and operating standards required under state and federal law.

EGLE also determined the operating license was developed in accordance with state and federal laws to protect public health and the environment. The goal of the license is not to just limit emissions from the facility, but to ensure that any waste that enters the facility is managed responsibly, especially in the community where the waste is being stored and treated. It is important that locations that treat and manage hazardous waste are properly licensed and operated to ensure that the disposal of these materials do not harm our communities and environment.

U.S. Ecology Detroit North has operated as a hazardous waste management site since the mid-1970s. The facility is designed with engineering controls and it is required to be operated in accordance with its license in a manner that provides redundancy and multiple layers of control to protect human health and the environment. Regular unannounced inspections are performed to make sure the safeguards are maintained in accordance with the license.

Responsible management of hazardous waste by U.S. Ecology and other companies that perform this service — and oversight from regulators including EGLE — is necessary to protect human health and the environment in the short and long term.

U.S. Ecology's operating license approved on Jan. 29 has a lifespan of 10 years, with reapplication due Aug. 2, 2029.

To find out more about this action and the site, please visit EGLE's U.S. Ecology website.

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