Defending Flint, Michigan from a Toxic Asphalt Plant

Nearly 3,000 people live within a mile from the Ajax asphalt plant, which will emit many air contaminants, including lead.


Citizens Advocate United Together to Inform Organized New Direction (C.A.U.T.I.O.N.)Environmental Transformation Movement of FlintFlint RisingMichigan UnitedSt. Francis Prayer Center


Regional Office / Program

Case Overview

In the fall of 2021, Michigan’s environmental agency (EGLE) authorized the Ajax corporation to build a toxic hot-mix asphalt plant near Flint. Close to 3,000 people live within a one-mile radius of the plant site, in a low-income area already overburdened with industrial polluters. The asphalt plant will release harmful chemicals like sulfur dioxide and lead that contribute to high rates of cancer, asthma, and other respiratory illnesses. It sits across the street from two public housing developments that are home to nearly 400 families, nearly all Black.

The Ajax asphalt plant represents the failure of government at every level to protect a beautiful yet environmentally overburdened community that is mostly Black and low-income from a toxic asphalt plant that will make people sick.

For years, Genesee Township has zoned and concentrated industrial polluters near its border with Flint, in the one census tract where most Black residents live. None of the predominantly white areas of the township’s zoning map are zoned for heavy industry. As a result, the families who live near the asphalt plant are hospitalized with asthma at over three times the state average. This is a clear consequence of environmental racism.

Local groups — Flint Rising, the Environmental Transformation Movement, the St. Francis Prayer Center, Michigan United, and C.A.U.T.I.O.N — sued Michigan’s environmental agency for approving a polluting hot-mix asphalt plant. Flint Rising, Environmental Transformation Movement of Flint, and the St. Francis Prayer Center have also filed civil rights complaints with HUD and with the EPA.

Earthjustice, the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, and the National Housing Law Project represent the groups in their legal actions.

The Ajax asphalt plant is seen mid-construction on May 10, 2022 in Flint, Mich.
The Ajax asphalt plant is seen mid-construction on May 10, 2022 in Flint, Mich. (Sylvia Jarrus for Earthjustice)

Case Updates

February 17, 2023 Document

Final court brief challenging the Ajax asphalt plant permit in Flint

Five community groups respond to Ajax in a final briefing before the Genesee County Circuit Court. The groups are appealing a decision by Michigan’s environmental agency to allow the Ajax corporation to install a toxic asphalt plant in a predominantly Black, low-income, and environmentally overburdened neighborhood.

January 24, 2023 Document

Response Brief to Ajax

Brief in Genesee County Circuit Court responds to Ajax’s arguments, which ask the court to undo the modest pollution controls included in their permit.