Michigan lawmakers and residents were shocked to find out that toxic waste from the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment was being transported to disposal sites in their state.
Contaminated liquid from the train derailment was being transported to an injection well in Romulus, Michigan. Contaminated soil was being transported to a site in Van Buren Township.
Since finding out about this operation, Michigan officials have halted the hazardous transport.
Local officials reported that they were kept in the dark about the relocation of Ohio’s toxic waste. Even state officials like Governor Gretchen Whitmer were allegedly uninformed of the decision to transport the hazardous materials into their state.
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Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said that his office was not informed of the operation, saying, “It sounds in all intent and purposes that we were sandbagged. I don’t know how you do that without contacting local officials so that we can number one, know how to respond to our communities, and two, give advice about what routes to take and those sort of things.”
Evans added that “some of this material is already at the landfill,” but reported that “some of the transport will be shut down immediately and [the EPA is] going to make arrangements for some of that material to go other places.”
The governmental organization that was responsible for approving the transport of waste from East Palestine is Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). According to EGLE, they have no legal obligation to notify state or local officials of incoming waste shipments.
Calling for a change in this policy, Michigan Senator Darrin Camilleri said, “We’re going to look this week at some notification reform. So mandating that we are told what type of material is coming into our state. When it coming, the routes they are taking,” said Camilleri.
Michigan environmental groups, residents, and lawmakers from both political parties are frustrated with the waste imports.
On Sunday, Michigan residents gathered in Romulus to protest the waste disposal.
Michigan GOP Chairwoman Kristina Karamo spoke at the protest. She said, “The Michigan Republican Party is demanding, just like every other resident in Michigan irrespective of political affiliation, that we have clean air and clean water. This is not a partisan issue, this is a human rights issue.”
“We have questions,” continued Karamo. “How much of this contaminated water and soil has been brought to Michigan? How has it been disposed? What has been disposed? What can residents do to protect themselves?”
Romulus Mayor Robert McCraight also addressed the issue saying that residents didn’t even want the injection well to be built in the first place.
“Romulus has never welcomed this well. It’s been a long legal process. And the elected officials back in the 90s when I was younger growing up here were fighting this well,” said McCraight.
“It’s a deep injection well, and it’s going near the nation’s largest supply of fresh water. It’s always been a head-scratcher for the people of Romulus.”
David Glaab, the chair of the Conference of Western Wayne, spoke on the stoppage of waste transportation to Michigan, saying, “While there has been a pause on the importation, we are calling on the EPA to publicly commit that there will be a permanent halt and that this hazardous material will ever be sent to Wayne County.”
Michigan regulators also revealed that the Romulus injection well, which is jointly regulated by EPA and EGLE, is currently facing civil penalties for legal violations.
Last summer, the injection well was in violation of hazardous waste handling rules last summer, according to the EGLE. The site had been improperly identifying and labeling waste and had modified liquid containment equipment without a permit.
Although the problems have been fixed at the site, the out-of-compliance facility won’t be updated in the federal database until the order is finalized and civil fines have been paid.
“We’re working on it,” said EGLE spokesperson Hugh McDiarmid. “It’s probably a couple months away.”
McDiarmid labeled the delay in the database update as “a bureaucratic hangover from the July inspection.”
Following the backlash, shipments from Ohio have been halted for now.