MichMash: US Ecology violated federal waste disposal regulations for years

The latest violation is US Ecology’s 41st environmental infraction in less than a decade.

A photo of the US Ecology south plant in Detroit, Mich.

A photo of the US Ecology south plant in Detroit, Mich.

US Ecology, who operates hazardous waste facilities across the country, has been violating federal regulations since 2018. 

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BridgeDetroit environmental reporter Jena Brooker has been covering the controversy surrounding US Ecology, who are accused of knowingly operating their facilities with leaky and damaged storage vaults, potentially threatening the health of nearby residents in Detroit’s Poletown East community for the past five years.

Brooker describes the major health threat this may cause with Poletown East residents with MichMash host Cheyna Roth.

In this episode:

  • US Ecology operating their facilities while violating federal regulations for the past five years.
  • Concern of nearby residents due to the persistent foul odor in the area.
  • Air Quality in Detroit and how Detroit was named #1 in  asthma cases in 2022.

Brooker reports that there was a leak where US Ecology were storing hazardous waste and it went without being recorded for five years.

“Residents have had  a lot of concerns for years now because of odors that they smell often. Experts have previously shared that there might be leakage from this facility, so it confirmed or reinforced some of those concerns,” Brooker explained. “And in the state expectation they did acknowledge that this leak could indicate that it’s contaminating ground water.”

Read: Coalition seeks increased oversight at US Ecology facility: ‘We want transparency’

The smells of rotting fish or bleach has permeated the noses of nearby residents for years.

“They don’t want to go outside. And they are afraid with how it is affecting their health.”

Brooker shared that neighbors thought the smell was being caused by the facility’s incinerator, but the incinerator shut down in 2019 and the odors lingered.  

The latest violation is US Ecology’s 41st environmental infraction in less than a decade. Michigan health officials did not address why it took them five years to notice the leak.

Listen to the entire MichMash episode using the media player above.

Editor’s note: In the episode, Brooker stated that the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy inspected the facility 20 times. She provided a correction that it was 40 times after the episode was produced.  

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  • Hernz Laguerre
    Hernz Laguerre Jr. is a Multimedia Journalist at 101.9 WDET. He is one of the co-host for "Detroit Evening Report," one of the weekend anchors for "Weekend Edition," the producer for our political podcast, "MichMash," and reports on arts, culture and politics.