Deep despair

Communities lose case against injection wells

Published: Wednesday 15 February 2006

thirty-five communities in Michigan, the us , lost a 15-year-old battle to prevent hazardous chemicals from being injected into the ground with a possible chance of contamination of underground aquifers.

The state issued a license to Bingham Farms-based Environmental Disposal Systems to operate two 4,500-feet (about 1,370 metre)-deep injection wells. Three hazardous waste haulers have begun pumping in more than 400,000 gallons (1,514,165 litres) per day of toxic waste deep into the earth. The wells will be used to dispose wastes like acids, chromium, lead and polychlorinated biphenyls.

Deep-well injection is a liquid waste disposal technology which places treated or untreated liquid waste in porous formations of rocks, through wells or other similar conveyance systems. The us Environmental Protection Agency runs a programme to manage and regulate these wells as over 34 billion litres of hazardous waste is disposed in this fashion every year in the us.

Huron township resident R P Lilly, criticised the decision."It's the worst possible site that could be picked. It's near the airport and 100 feet from the I-94 highway. It's a small site very near to people," he said.

But Steve Chester, director of Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality (deq), said his department had little choice but to approve the license because the company met all the construction and safety requirements. Not granting the license could have resulted in a costly legal battle, with little chance for success. Chester called on lawmakers to restore to the state's Site Review Board the power to decide where future hazardous waste facilities will go in the state, which was earlier taken from them. Consequently, even when the board advised against the injection wells, the deq granted the license.

While the 35 Wayne county and Downriver communities have spent more than us $1 million on lawsuits to block these wells, the company has invested us $40 million to construct the wells, and at least us $2 million in court battles to defend the facility.

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