A Chrome Craft plant in Highland Park, Michigan, may have left behind a very toxic legacy. Fears are growing that the neighborhood surrounding the Chrome Craft facility may be contaminated with cancer-causing hexavalent chromium.
Former Chrome Craft plant workers are making the accusations, according to the Detroit Free Press. The toxin is best known for its Hinckley, California contamination in the case that Erin Brockovich made famous. The compound was used to coat bumpers at the Chrome Craft plant.
This is not the first time Chrome Craft has been cited as a big polluter. In the past two decades, 39 violations of city, state, and federal laws have been brought concerning the plant’s discharges into Detroit sewers as well as its storing hazardous waste with no permit, storing waste improperly, and failing to train its workers; all this according to documents obtained by the United Auto Workers (UAW) under the Freedom of Information Act. The NAACP, the UAW, environmental groups, and workers are calling for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to open investigation, said the Free Press. The DEQ has yet to respond.
Chromium is a naturally occurring element in the environment and is also a toxin that is dumped into bodies of water by industry. The heavy metal is used in the manufacture of steel and plate metal and leather tanning, and as a corrosion preventative.
As we’ve mentioned, chromium can cause skin irritation, asthma, kidney and liver damage, dental issues, and cancer. Considered a general carcinogen, hexavalent chromium can lead to a variety of cancers such as of the stomach, throat, and uterus; however, lung cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer caused by hexavalent chromium. Other forms of cancer, not yet identified, could also be linked to the toxic metal, which has been significantly linked to stomach cancer.
Flex-N-Gate, owned by Shahid Khan, owns Chrome Craft, said the Free Press. Khan, an Illinois businessman, is looking to receive NFL owner approval to purchase the Jacksonville Jaguars. According to Free Press, the firm denied knowing about leaks or violations.
Saad Bolos, 56, a former worker employed at the plant for 17 years, told the Free Press about a number of leaks, including a rooftop pipe releasing what he thought was chromium onto snow in an alley behind some houses. “It was everywhere,” he said. Bolos, who served as plant’s safety committee chair said,, workers brought up concerns with chemical safety in an out of the plant for years. “We tried, but we couldn’t accomplish a lot,” said Bolos, according to the Free Press.
Other former plant workers say the spills they witnessed most probably contaminated the alley and likely nearby homes.
No less than six former employees made allegations to the UAW, said the Free Press, which explained that the uion represents workers at the plant and has reviewed dozens of documents, according to a union researcher, Chris Schwartz. The documents show no evidence that cleanups ever occurred at the site, said Schwartz.