‘City plan ignores pollution’
Sierra Club says conflicts of interest riddle plan
By T. Kelly
The Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — “It’s been a long, long time coming but I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will.”
Sam Cooke sang it, and the Detroit Works Project (DWP) quoted it to frame their blueprint for Detroit’s future, “Detroit Future City (DFC),” released in January.
However, the Sierra Club says the blueprint is flawed and “fundamentally contradicts the principles of environmental justice.”
Environmental justice means no group of people should have to bear a disproportionately greater burden resulting from environmental laws, regulations, policies and decision-making.
The Sierra Club report details significant environmental justice issues affecting residents of Detroit including public health, industrial epidemiology, excessive heat events, air and traffic pollution in proximity to schools, Brownfields, water pollution, privatization of public lands and the cumulative impact from heavy industry in the city. The report also references similar concerns in River Rouge and Ecorse and suggests that neighboring communities be included in such planning efforts by Detroit Future City.
“We feel that the Detroit Future City plan does not adequately address the environmental concerns and issues inside the city of Detroit,” said Sierra Club Environmental Justice Organizer Rhonda Anderson. “For example, we have in the tri-cities area of Detroit, River Rouge and Ecorse, the most polluted area in Michigan and the third most polluted area in the United States. We are simply saying to Detroit Future City that they need to take a better look at the environmental situation that is going on in the city and come up with a better plan to address these problems.”
According to the Sierra Club, the DWP’s plan ignores the “continued push of privatization of public lands and resources with respect to land use, air and water quality.” The Sierra Club report also condemns the DWP for channeling “resources toward certain target areas of the city while neglecting others.”
The Sierra Club report says the DWP membership “includes individuals and organizations that perpetuate environmental injustices” and that “presents the DWP with a conflict of interest that must be resolved before the Sierra Club collaborates in this process.”
Detroit Future City (formerly known as the Detroit Works Project) responded April 5 with a statement via their Web site. The statement concludes by stating, “As we transition into implementation, we will continue to work with organizations and other community partners to improve the quality of life for all Detroiters and create a more prosperous, connected, sustainable and socially equitable city.”
The Sierra Club announced its report at a special news conference April 4 at Eastern Market to engage all parts of the metro community in creating a more environmentally healthy area.
Other speakers at the press conference included Sierra Club Great Lakes Program Director Melissa Damaschke, Sierra Club Environmental Justice lead volunteer Dr. Delores Leonard of 48217, and River Rouge residents Alisha Winters, Ebony Elmore and Douglass Myers. Following the press conference the Sierra Club hand delivered the report into the DFC Offices.
“The bottom line is that the Detroit Future City Plan must do better,” said Damaschke, who listed climate change, the resulting increased water utility rates, sewerage overflows and water contamination of the Detroit and Rouge Rivers that flow into Lake Erie among her primary concerns not addressed in the plan.
“The plan can be the city’s opportunity to create a just, clean and prosperous future for all residents. We cannot miss this vital chance to protect our water and our communities. Detroit is a Great Lakes City and we must demand better for our community and our Great Lakes,” Damaschke said.
The entire Sierra Club report can be viewed here.