Persistence pays off for environmental health in Dearborn
By Dennis Archambault
For communities with heavy industry presence, air quality is a critical determinant of health. Such is the case in Dearborn, particularly East Dearborn. While citizens rely on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy to enforce air quality, there are other ways to address specific issues, such as “fugitive dust.”
The EPA defines fugitive dust as “significant atmospheric dust arises from the mechanical disturbance of granular material exposed to the air.” That’s technical language for dust that comes from work such as road paving, construction, agriculture tilling, and storage piles of industrial materials that can be blown into the air. It’s considered “fugitive” because it’s not released into the atmosphere in a controlled flow.
For many years, communities have accepted this as a price of progress. They’ve paid that price through lung disease and other health problems. However, in recent years environmental advocates, and enlightened elected officials have found ways to address some of these issues piecemeal. State Rep. Abdullah Hammoud, together with community activists Salah Ali and Nick Leonard of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, proposed an ordinance or Dearborn City Council to enact nearly two years ago. On Aug. 25, the Council passed an ordinance effectively reducing air pollution from industrial debris. The ordinance is enforced locally through fines (https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/wayne-county/2020/08/26/new-dearborn-ordinance-aims-reduce-air-pollution-fugitive-dust/3443020001/).
This is a good example of how citizen action can inform and persuade elected officials to promote public health.
Dennis Archambault is Vice President of Public Affairs for Authority Health.