April 11, 2019
On Thursday, March 28, hundreds of community members gathered in Hamtramck’s Bridge Academy East Gym to participate in the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) public meeting to learn more about the proposed relicensing and expansion of U.S. Ecology Detroit North. The meeting was part of the reopening of the public comment process, which was driven by requests from the community to address language barriers during the previous comment period. Designed to be inclusive of the needs of community members with limited English proficiency, the meeting included written materials in English, Bengali, and Arabic, as well as on-site translators.
A presentation with English, Bengali, and Arabic subtitles was initially slated for viewing during the meeting; however, it was ultimately posted online due to technical difficulties. Many meeting participants were able to take part in the formal public comment period providing verbal, as well as written comment submissions. More than 100 comments have been received to date.
According to MDEQ Division Director Jack Schinderle, the meeting was the result of enhanced community dialogue that began last year and will continue.
“Our goal in having this public meeting was to provide an opportunity to share where we are in the process and hear from the community regarding their questions and concerns,” said Schinderle. “I will admit that there were challenges and highlights during the meeting, which was both a learning experience and a step along what we know will be a continuum of improving our interaction with the community. Great care was taken to address cultural sensitivities, as well as language barriers. We know it was not perfect. However, we also know that having partners on hand from the community, as well as county officials and state legislators is a step in the right direction. We were encouraged to see the level of community engagement that brought more than 550 participants out on a Thursday night to share concerns and learn more.”
In response to petitions submitted last summer, MDEQ met with community leaders and stakeholders to discuss ways to address language barriers and to ensure that the needs of the community were addressed. As a result of these meetings, the public comment period for the US Ecology Detroit North facility at 6520 Georgia Street license renewal was reopened on February 22. The comment period ends on April 12. To publicize the reopening of the comment period, as well as the public meeting, a public notice was distributed in English, Arabic, and Bengali in the Hamtramck Review and an English notice aired on 760 WJR, AM radio. The notice was also distributed to elected leaders in Detroit, Wayne County, the state legislature, and federal departments.
To learn more or to submit comments by the April 12th deadline, contact Richard Conforti in the MDEQ Waste Management and Radiological Protection Division at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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