Michigan Approves Another Polluter in Flint

Asphalt plant will pump more pollution into the air in a community not yet recovered from lead poisoning


Erin Fitzgerald, efitzgerald@earthjustice.org

Today, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, or EGLE, approved the air permit for a hot mix asphalt plant in Flint, a community still reeling from lead poisoning, as well as ongoing and legacy industrial pollution.

The Ajax asphalt plant will be located in Genesee Township, less than 1,600 feet from public housing in a low-income Black neighborhood in Flint that is already overwhelmed by high levels of air toxics, particulate matter from the concentration of industrial activity. Nearby facilities include Genesee Power Station, Universal Coating, Inc. Ace-Saginaw Paving Company, Buckeye Terminals, Superior Metals, RJ Industrial Recycling, and many others. The asphalt plant, which will emit many air contaminants, including lead, is slated to be in extremely close proximity to residential housing and the St. Francis Prayer Center, which serves residents of the public housing community, among others in Flint.

A coalition of many Flint-based groups have been fighting the issuance of this permit. In response to the comments of this coalition and other advocates, EGLE changed the draft permit. However, EGLE never undertook a proper an analysis of the cumulative impacts that this asphalt plant will have on the Flint community.

On behalf of coalition members Flint Rising, Environmental Transformation Movement of Flint, and the St. Francis Prayer Center, Earthjustice and the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center submitted a Title VI civil rights complaint to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA)Civil Rights’ Office, seeking an investigation of the state environmental agency’s actions in this permitting process and a request for a broader review of and the state environmental agency’s compliance with civil rights laws more broadly.

“It is unconscionable that EGLE allowed another source of pollution, including lead and other air toxics, in our community. Our community, our families, our children, cannot and should not take more chemical pollution,” said Deborah Hawley, director, St. Francis Prayer Center. “We demand Ajax and EGLE to pause the construction and operation of this asphalt plant until more can be learned about its impacts.”

“This permitting decision perpetuates a legacy of environmental racism in Flint and in Michigan. We are disappointed that the Whitmer Administration’s environmental agency is not following through on its commitment to environmental justice, said Nayyirah Shariff, director, Flint Rising.

“We will keep building power and fighting for access to clean air and a healthy environment for Flint and Genesee Township residents, said Mona Munroe-Younis, executive director, Environmental Transformation Movement of Flint.

The following statement is from Nick Leonard, executive director, Great Lakes Environmental Center:

“The draft air permit, or permit to install, for this hot mix asphalt plant was gravely deficient under the Clean Air Act and under civil rights laws. The plant will be an additional source of air pollution in a community of color that already has one of the highest rates of asthma hospitalizations in the state. This asphalt plant should not have been permitted and should not be constructed or operated until the cumulative risks or impacts of adding this burdened Flint community are properly considered.”

The following statement is from Debbie Chizewer, Earthjustice managing attorney:

“Michigan’s environmental agency has failed to consider the adverse impacts on this Black, low-income community that will result from permitting this asphalt plant in this community. This failure comes even after our clients, EPA, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development all submitted comments raising serious civil rights concerns about the disparate impact that would result to a low-income predominantly Black community.”

Additional Resources

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people's health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.