Former State Rep. Mary Waters, flanked by Rev. Wayne McQueen (r) and Willie E. Burton, outside Chrome Craft plant in Highland Park Feb. 2, 2012


By Diane Bukowski 

February 3, 2012 

HIGHLAND PARK , MI — On the eve of SuperBowl week-end, former State Rep. Mary Waters. a cancer survivor, Rev. Wayne McQueen, and precinct delegate Willie E. Burton called on the National Football League to suspend the Jacksonville Jaguars’ new owner Shahid Khan, whose net worth is $2.5 billion. They demanded that Khan clean up the chemically contaminated site of the former Chrome Craft plant in Highland Park, which he also owns. 

New Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, right, is introduced by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell during a news conference at the NFL owners meeting in Irving, Texas, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011. The sale from franchise founder Wayne Weaver to the Pakistani-born Khan was unanimously approved Wednesday. The deal reportedly is for $760 million. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

According to former workers at the plant, the site is contaminated with Hexavalent Chromium, a highly dangerous carcinogren which was featured in the movie “Erin Brockovich.” Brockovich and residents near a Pacific Gas & Electric plant in California won a class action lawsuit against the company for hexavalent chromium contamination of the site.

“If the NFL can suspend NFL players for their activities both on and off the field, then surely the NFL must be able to suspend owners from directing their teams if those owners are conducting their businesses in a manner that threatens the public health, safety and welfare of the people of Highland Park and Detroit, Michigan”, Waters said during a press conference outside the plant Feb. 2.

Detroit Lions' Ndamukong Suh

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell instituted a new off-the-field conduct policy in 2007. It resulted in the suspensions of numerous players, including Atlanta Falcons starting quarterback Michael Vick, Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry, and Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson, for arrests ranging from driving without a license to Vick’s dog-fighting charges. The players ere suspended prior to any convictions. Most recently, the NFL suspended Detr0it Lions’ defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh on Thanksgiving for allegedly stomping another player during a game against the Green Bay Packers. All of the players are Black.

“Are the lives of the urban poor and people of color any less valuable than that of an NFL quarterback?” Waters asked Goodell in a letter she emailed to him Dec. 1.

Waters said she previously wrote Goodell in December asking that Khan’s application to own the Jaguars be denied due to HIS off-the-field conduct. Goodell ignored that demand, and has not responded to Waters’ recent Above, Pacific Gas & Electric contaminated site in Califonria    letter  (click on  Waters letter tp NFL head).

“In the name of environmental justice, I ask that the NFL delay the activities of the Jacksonville Jaguars until properties owned by Mr. Khann are scientifically certified to be free of cancer-causing agents such as Hexavalent Chromium,” Waters wrote. “This action may be the only leverage our community can exert to ensure compliance with the humane business practices.” 

She noted that Khan’s ability to purchase the Jaguars was derived in part from Chrome Craft operations. 

Former Chrome Craft workers and residents of the poverty-stricken area surrounding the plant, located at 318 Midland in Highland Park, have been campaigning to get the property cleaned up since last year. They have established a website at http://cleanupchromecraft.org/

Antwine Riggs

Two former workers are featured on the site. 

“I worked at Chrome Craft for 13 years, until it closed in 2009,” Antwine Riggs reported. “During that time there were a lot of problems with the machines that processed the waste from the chroming lines.  One machine that was broken a lot was the dryer that chroming sludge went through – the arm that moved the sludge into the dryer was usually broken so the sludge wouldn’t dry and would spill off the conveyor onto the ground near the container outside.  It probably happened three to four times per week.”

Saad Bolos

“Part of the plant’s chroming system was on the roof of the plant – a series of pipes that fed into the tanks on the chroming line,” former worker Saad Bolos said. “The pipes were PVC, not even metal, about four inches diameter.  One winter one of the PVC pipes burst.  It was filled with chroming bath and it spilled all over the plant property and washed into the alleyway.  I remember the snow turning a yellowish-golden color, the same color your hands would be at the end of a shift, even if you wore gloves at work.”

 “The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and the [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] have determined that chromium(VI) compounds are known human carcinogens,” according to a report from the HHHS. The report added that it causes a range of other health problems when inhaled or ingested.nd cause a range of other health problems when inhaled or ingested.

Erin Brockovich continues to campaign for enviironmental justice around the world

“Protecting future generations from exposure to hexavalent chromium—also known as chromium (VI) or Chromium-6 —is a growing priority for federal regulators, the Clean Up Chrome Craft website says. “For example, an influential report by the Environmental Working Group on Chromium-6 in municipal water supplies led the U.S. EPA to issue new guidance to water systems for monitoring the chemical.[In October 2010, the EPA proposed new rules for air emissions from electroplating plants,  and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule that provided workers with additional protections by requiring companies to inform their employees of whenever they are exposed to the chemical, regardless of how little.”

Tina Lam, of the Detroit Free Press, wrote in December that former workers are seeking a state investigation of contamination caused by Chrome Craft.

Lam wrote, “The plant . . ., has been cited over the past 20 years for 39 violations of city, state and federal laws regarding its discharges into Detroit sewers, its lack of a permit to store hazardous waste, improper storage of waste and failure to train workers, according to documents obtained by the UAW under the Freedom of Information Act. The NAACP, the UAW, environmental groups and workers are asking the state’s Department of Environmental Quality to investigate. (Click on   to read letter.)

Read Freep article at http://www.freep.com/article/20111213/NEWS05/112130398/Former-workers-seek-state-investigation-of-Chrome-Craft

Former State Rep. Waters is currently running is a threeay campaign race for U.S. Congress, involving the redistricted 14th district. Her opponents are former State Senator Gary Peters and incumbent U.S. Rep. Hansen Clarke.

Aerial view of Chrome Craft plant (red A marker) shows many residential properties surrounding it.

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