Growing Up With The Detroit Incinerator

BY ON July 6, 2012

This post was written by Stephanie Longmire, Moms Clean Air Force intern in Southeast Michigan:

Stephanie Longmire

As a child I spent a lot of time in Delray, a neighborhood in Southwest Detroit that used to be an epicenter of factory work and industrialization back in the early 1900’s. Delray used to flourish, replete with beautiful homes, blooming businesses and a great educational system. As a child, I remember waking up to a layer of reddish-grey soot on the cars and streets. Today, Delray is known for its distinct rancid odor, a smell causing most residents to refuse to open their windows in the summertime. This speaks volumes since that the majority of the homes do not have air conditioning.

Delray is home to the Detroit Incinerator, one of the largest incinerators in the world. It burns 800,000 tons of waste per year and it’s only 5 miles from Delray. In its 20 years of operation, the incinerator has cost Detroit taxpayers over $1,100,000,000. In exchange, the incinerator generated toxic pollution causing local asthma rates to triple the national average. Numerous Delray residents, six of whom are in my family, have been diagnosed with or have died from the exact same lung cancer, Mesothelioma.

I was born with asthma. The children who are born in Delray are at much higher risk for asthma. Residents have filed 169 complaints with the county about the revolting odor just in the past three years. The Detroit Metro Times even describes Delray as, “The closest thing to a ghost town within a city.”

Have you ever wondered why pregnant women are instructed by their doctors to cut down on fish consumption? It is solely because the water is known to be contaminated, thus the fish are as well. It has nothing to do with the nutrition of the actual fish. Air and water are directly related from an environmental standpoint. If the air is dirty, the water is dirty and vice versa. The greenery in Delray is noticeably decaying and the neighborhood has been forgotten. The residents are mostly of color, elderly, low income, and do not have much of an option to leave. Air pollution has affected this once thriving neighborhood. Please join Moms Clean Air Force to fight for cleaner air in our neighborhoods–every voice counts!


TOPICS: African-American Community, Asthma, Michigan, Pollution, Social Justice