Thursday, October 5, 2023

Hazardous waste well license renewal approved by state

Despite the continued objections of city officials and public criticism, a 10-year hazardous waste management license for the deep-well waste injection site in Romulus was approved by the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).

According to a statement issued by EGLE representatives, all safety violations at the hazardous waste disposal firm have been resolved by Republic Industrial and Energy Solutions, the current operator of the facility.  Outrage erupted throughout several communities earlier this year when hazardous material from a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio was transported to Michigan and disposed of at the site without notification to local officials or citizens. 

Following the public criticism of the transporting of toxic waste from the Ohio train derailment to the Romulus facility for disposal, representatives of EGLE agreed to reopen the public comment period regarding the re-licensing of the above-ground portion of the injection well. 

The initial public comment period ended with no comments from the public. EGLE spokesman Hugh McDiarmid said the shipping of the toxic waste from Ohio raised concerns about the facility. 

“It became pretty clear to us that people were clamoring for more information about it, for more opportunity to comment on it, and this re-licensing was in process,” McDiarmid said. “So we heard those calls.”

The approved permit does not expand the facility and doesn't allow Republic to bring in any additional types of hazardous waste, according to McDiarmid.

According to the EGLE statement, “The draft License authorizes the storage of up to 11,000 gallons of hazardous wastes in containers in the container storage area, up to 92,000 gallons of hazardous waste in rail tanker cars in the railcar storage and unloading area, and up to 240,670 gallons of hazardous waste in tanks. 

In addition, the draft license authorizes the treatment of up to 400,000 gallons per day of hazardous wastes in tanks.”

The agency has deemed the Republic application “administratively complete and technically accurate.” 

“We can't deny a permit for this facility because it's unpopular, or because we had many more comments against it than for it,” McDiarmid said. “That can't factor into it under the law that we operate under.”

McDiarmid acknowledged that the prospect of the East Palestine waste coming to the site put a larger spotlight on the facility and the issue of hazardous waste storage. Additionally, EGLE cited Republic for a number of environmental violations this past summer. 

McDiarmid said that EGLE and Republic have agreed to a consent order that includes a fine, and the violations “were promptly resolved to our satisfaction and they're [now] in compliance.”