Newsletter April 22, 2014

April 29, 2014

EAT4Health Fellow Charity Hicks Presents in Washington, D.C.

Submitted by Charity Hicks

As part of the Everybody at the Table for Health (EAT4HEALTH) initiative, on Monday April 7th, I presented a policy brief for equitable food & agricultural policy in Washington D.C.  The EAT4EHALTH initiative is a national food and agricultural policy project with focus in four local communities, Detroit, MI - San Antonio, TX - New Orleans, LA and Glassboro, NJ shaping federal policy to improve and enhance the quality of life of low-income communities of color.  Public policy at its core has to do with our tax dollars and the promotion of the general health, safety and welfare of all of us.  Examining the current conditions in Detroit and seeing the cross cutting issues which impact our community food system in Detroit the policy briefing focused on the significant intertwining of our environment, health and economy. [Continue reading...]

Giving Thanks to Our Semester in Detroit Intern Dominique Mathews

The University of Michigan has send us some pretty wonderful Interns over the past few years. And we are proud and honored for this trend to have continued with Dominique Mathews, who wrapped up her time with us last week. Dominique worked closely with the Young Educators Alliance to delve into a variety of social and environmental issues. 

On her last day, Dominique sat down with us to share a little about what she did and learned during her time here. Click here to view this short interview. 

Celebrating Mother Earth While Acknowledging Harm to Her

Today, April 22, marks the 44th year of Earth Day. And while we are grateful to have a day that invites us to consider our Great Mother,we know that conditions have worsened worldwide since 1970.  Land, air, water quality throughout the world have been compromised largely by practices of industrial pollutors.  Science now informs us of the connection between industrial CO2 and methane emissions and climate destabilization, which has led to some of the most extreme weather events experienced in modern history; weather events that have harmed people and families, destroyed communities, disrupted ecosystems, bankrupted economies and displaced many.  [Continue reading...

What We Have Our Eyes On

COMMUNITY MEETING: Detroit Renewable Power (owners of the incinerator) held a community meeting at the Palmer Court Townhomes on April 16.  There were about 15 or so attendees, including Palmer Court residents and folks from nearby organizations.  EMEAC was present as we are concerned about impacts to people and environmental health AND because our offices are in what we call the 'smell zone.' (Yes, we can smell it as far as Cass Ave.)  I write this because in the subtle use of language during this meeting, we were made to appear as though we were outsiders and not people directly impacted by the incinerator.  Some of highlights of the meeting include:

-- CEO O'Sullivan opened up with an overview of the incineration process as it happens at this facility.  He discussed the upgrades that Detroit Renewable Power (DRP) will make to the incinerator to eliminate odor pollution.  DRP awaits approval from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and hopes to begin construction in the fall of 2015.  When asked about what guarantees the community can have around odor pollution in the meantime, O'Sullivan responded that DRP sold $55 million in private placement bonds, most of which will be used for maintenance.  Also, the time it takes between receiving garbage to burning will be sped up to now allow for it to build up and cause odors.

--Meeting participants, which included residents and a few Zero Waste Detroit coalition members, raised some important points of concern.  Several concerns were raised about the health impacts of the incinerator on the community, particularly around asthma.  Alan Greenburg, Director of Environmental Affairs, offered that asthma was largely due to such factors home factors as moldy pipes and insect droppings, not so much environmental factors.  ZWD's Ahmina Maxey pointed out that there is a link between environmental pollutants and asthma, otherwise such governmental agencies as the EPA wouldn't have designated ozone action days (alerts that caution people with certain health conditions to not come outdoors due to poor air quality).   One woman shared that she just moved to the townhouses in October and the first time she smelled the odors coming from the incinerator, it made her sick and she coughed all the way home. 

--One person asked where DRP was in resolving odor violations with MDEQ.  O'Sullivan said that DRP developed a preliminary plan and presented it to MDEQ.  They now have to work out the details. 

How do we think the meeting went? Well, the best answer at this time is "we shall see."  Experience reminds us that many promises are made to community, but where profits are involved, our lives and health matter little.  We will continue working with allies and concerned folks to figure out what's best for our lives and the environment and bring about those solutions.