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New Debate Over Detroit's Incinerator

New Debate Over Detroit's Incinerator

The Detroit incinerator. (Photo courtesy of Flickr user tEdGuY49)

Host: Rebecca Williams
Show date: 03/31/2011

Detroit is home to one of the world’s largest incinerators. That facility burns around 800,000 tons of trash every year.

The issue has sparked passionate conflict in Detroit for more than 20 years. And a recent public hearing—on whether to give the incinerator’s new owners tax credits—showed that conflict is just as intense as ever. Sarah Cwiek reports:

Public hearings aren’t usually very emotional events. But this one, held earlier this month at Detroit’s Center for Creative Studies, was an exception.

(Sound of Brad Van Guilder: “You burn what can be recycled.”

Steve White: “That’s our business model.”

Woman: “You need to change your model.”)

To really understand what these folks are talking about, we have to talk about some history first.

The Detroit incinerator has been controversial since it opened in 1989. It’s a massive, hulking presence just north of downtown Detroit. For years, pro- and anti-incinerator sides have argued about virtually everything: whether the facility is a cost-effective alternative to landfills, whether it’s responsible for the asthma cluster around it, even about how bad it does or doesn’t smell.

Map of Wayne County asthma hospitalization rates

Detroit Renewable Energy, the incinerator's owner

More about brownfield redevelopment tax credits


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