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Public comment period on Detroit toxic waste facility comes to a close

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Today is the last day for the public to weigh in on plans to expand a toxic waste facility in an east Detroit neighborhood.

US Ecology wants permission to expand its capacity to treat and store hazardous materials to 10 times what it handles now.

That includes byproducts from oil and gas fracking.

Concerns from local officials and residents who live near the facility prompted the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to extend the public comment period twice.

Richard Conforti with MDEQ said so far, the state has received around 450 comments.

Most of the comments, he said, were from people who don't want the facility in their neighborhood.

"The MDEQ doesn't get into siting where a facility can be," Conforti said. "If a facility is in a location, it's because that's what it's zoned [for], and the location can handle an industrial complex like [US Ecology]." 

Conforti said other concerns include increased traffic, whether the facility's infrastructure can handle more waste, and whether waste will be released into the area's groundwater and soil.

"The facility will be designed to minimize any impact to the environment," Conforti said. "If something is spilled inside the building, there's a secondary containment to prevent it from getting out of the building."

Conforti said MDEQ will review all public concerns before deciding whether to issue the expansion permit. 

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