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Burnin’ in Hamtown


Last week the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition and other groups issued a report claiming that Hamtramck, with its large number of poor and minority residents, shoulders the burden of the state’s only commercially owned incinerator.

City Medical Waste Services, Inc., which owns the Hamtramck unit, also owns a medical waste disposal facility in Grand Blanc (near Flint). But in Grand Blanc — a much more affluent and mostly white community — the company utilizes an “autoclave” steam process that’s far less toxic than incineration, according to the report.

Company officials were not available for comment.

“Grand Blanc has a safer, cleaner, more environmentally compatible way to process medical waste and that is, of course, in a more wealthy community,” says Rob Cedar, Hamtramck Environmental Action Team director, which co-commissioned the report from Robert Saha, a University of Michigan doctoral candidate in the School of Natural Resources. “Here in Hamtramck they incinerate.”

Burning the medical waste creates mercury, dioxin and lead emissions, according to Cedar.

He says the groups will use the report in an attempt to convince hospitals to stop sending their waste to the incinerator, and to inform the public about the environmental injustice in Hamtramck.

“A facility like this would not be allowed to operate in a wealthy community,” says Cedar.

Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or