Landfill odor protests continue
MDEQ Representative Scott Miller addressed Northville Township residents.
Sept. 16, 2017 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Michigan News
In a situation Northville Township Manager Chip Snider described as “a perfect storm” last year, residents crowded township hall last week seeking a solution to the odor problems from Arbor Hills Landfill.
The residents, many visibly irate, attended the meeting scheduled with representatives from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) in an effort to explain the role and responsibilities of the state department in the situation.
Residents have been complaining for several years about the odors and rancid smells emanating from the landfill located about a mile from Ridge Wood Elementary School. Residents’ concerns escalated at rumored plans of an expansion at the 337-acre facility operated by Advance Disposal Services (ADS), which have been dispelled by state officials as “off the table.”
The landfill has been operating since 1970, processing solid waste from Washtenaw and Wayne counties into one of the largest and tallest landfill sites in the state. According to Scott Miller, district supervisor of the MDEQ Jackson District Office, a major malfunction of the gas collection and control system resulted in the emission of intermittent strong odors in January, 2016.
Northville Township Supervisor Bob Nix called the special public meeting to allow disgruntled residents to hear first-hand what remedies, if any, MDEQ is pursuing after a year of issuing violation notices and taking “enforcement action” against the Arbor Hills firm.
Our goal is to get the information out,” Nix said to the standing-room only crowd, which included supporters of Stop Arbor Hills an environmental nonprofit group formed in 2016 in response to the strong odors and expansion rumors.
Last year residents also complained about the truck traffic through residential neighbor- hoods hauling waste to and from the landfill citing the odor, noise and wear and tear on neighborhood streets. Township police have recently stepped-up enforcement and began to issue traffic citations to trucks traveling to and from the landfill not using the prescribed routes on major roads.
Last year, the Northville Township Board of Trustees also approved a formal resolution stating the opposition of Northville Township to any expansion or adaption of a new landfill, citing long-term environmental risks for both Salem and Northville townships. In addition, members of the Northville Public Schools Board of Education approved a resolution citing complaints from parents regarding odors, traffic and noise at the Ridge Wood Elementary School located just east of the Arbor Hills landfill.
MDEQ records show that it was not until February 2016 that the Waste Management and Radiological Protection Division commenced inspections of the landfill and the surrounding area and issued violations to ADS for producing “nuisance landfill gas odors.”
The MDEQ issued a total of six violation notices of noncompliance against Advance Disposal Services and other companies operating at the landfill, according to Miller, who said that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also issued several violations of federal rules at Arbor Hills. Miller added that no violations have been issued against the company this year. He said that improvements and drilling of new wells to curtail odors is continuing at the facility but that odors from the landfill would never be completely eliminated.
The Salem Township facility is located in Washtenaw County but borders Northville Township on the east. It has been located at Six Mile and Napier roads for more than 60 years and is a main source of revenue for Salem Township as Salem residents are exempt from property tax payments. Representatives from Salem and Washtenaw counties were conspicuously absent from the meeting.
State Sen. Patrick Colbeck came under fire at the meeting from Jennifer Loomis, who lives near the landfill. Loomis claimed he was un-deserving of her vote to office because of his lack of assistance in the matter.
Colbeck, who was absent from the meeting, said in a later telephone interview, he was engaged in the problem over a year ago and has worked closely with Nix and Salem Township Supervisor Gary Whitaker to come to a resolution toward odor abatement. The landfill is not located in Colbeck’s district, but that of Sen. Rebakah Warren of District 18 in eastern Washtenaw County. Warren did not return phone calls seeking comment.
“It took some adverse circumstances to get to this point, Colbeck said.
Colbeck said Republic Services Inc. part of BFI Waste Systems of North America, previously owned the gas wells. On Feb. 2, ADI took over ownership of the landfill gas collection system from BFI and was responsible for the maintenance “but gas was not being burned off,” citing a judicial ruling.
“It’s about being a good neighbor. Now we’ve got it fixed from an ownership perspective-we’re on a good track right now,” Colbeck said.
Members of the Northville Township board stood at the edge of the auditorium as the MDEQ executives went through a power point presentation that obviously did not appease the audience as residents demanded the closure of the landfill claiming that they’re getting nowhere and the odors and fumes are likely a health hazard.
While no action was taken, informed sources and officials close to the situation indicated that the only recourse Northville Township might have would be through the court system.
The MDEQ has a web page which includes information regarding the status of action at the landfill, michigan.gov/deq and search for Arbor Hills Landfill.
Gallery Photo: © Don Howard / Associated Newspapers
Site Photo: Advanced Disposal Services