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Residents question landfill decision

Part 1 of 2

June 08, 2011 - Residents of the Hi-Hill subdivision, in the southeastern quad of Orion Township, were dismayed at the township's recent fast-track approval of Eagle Valley expansion.

They wonder why the township turned their backs against and rescinded a 1991 consent agreement the township fought for, that kept the land fill from expanding. They are upset, because as you anyone exits the subdivision, looking west the landfill mountain looms 146 feet above Michigan Highway 24 — and with the expansion that mountain will rise 25 more feet. Twenty-five more feet of sea gulls, rubbish, heavy machinery and when the wind is right (like in the summer) the smell of decay. They worry how the landfill's 53-acre expansion will effect their home values.

In the last weeks of May, the township held a special meeting to explain the turnaround in township policy, but residents are still scratching their heads. Three residents, Joe Geraci, Mary Ann Ryan and Sue Turpen sat down with Review acting editor Don Rush to go over documents that contradicts arguments for the township vote. Complete with state and county documentation and an environmental study, they contend proves the board voted rashly to approve the expansion, in effect giving the landfill up to 30 more years of business — when the state would have granted at the most, eight years. More interesting is how, by the companies own calculations over the past three years, the landfill had almost 10 years worth of capacity without the expansion.

Ironically, recently appointed township supervisor Joann VanTassel went on record, without prompting, that the board's action was reached too quickly. The following are the facts as these residents have discovered by pouring over state and county documentation. Rather than rewrite what has already been written, we submit their findings and questions to you, the residents of Orion Township. When you finish reading, we invite the community to comment. -- dpr

How long does it take to

find out the truth?

Then Orion Township Supervisor Matt Gibb told a tale of half truths and innuendos to convince the Orion Township Board that their hands are tied and they must approve a 53-acre expansion of the Eagle Valley Landfill. Sixteen months of planning, forming alliances and manipulation all came down to one vote on April 18, 2011. After 20 years, Waste Management and Oakland County found an Orion Township Supervisor that would convince the Board to break the 1991 Host Community Agreement.

So how long did it take to find out the truth? It has taken three weeks of digging to find this information, please take the time and look up these documents for yourself, and then you decide.

Question – How many Township Officials have actually read the The Township Attorney's opinion dated August 2, 2010? You saw it before the vote on April 18, — but did you have a chance to read it, study it and understand it, and see that Eagle Valley's operating license was going to expire on October 24, 2010 before it was collected back up and secured back in the attorney's briefcase? With Oakland County over capacity and Eagle Valley with nine more years of capacity do you think the State would have extended their license?

During the meeting, the Township Attorney stated a lot verbally and all in a nonbinding way, the only thing you can believe is the written opinion. It's a shame you never took the time to read it, before you voted for the expansion.

The Truth - State of Michigan House Bill No.4760 amend 1994 PA 451 section 11511a, Section 11511a. Filed on May 11, 2005 - paragraph (3) – "The department may issue a permit to construct an expansion to an existing landfill if the applicant demonstrates the landfill has less than 3 years of remaining disposal capacity as calculated under section 11507a and the application otherwise meets the requirements of this part. A permit issued under this section shall provide not more than a total of 8 years of remaining disposal capacity existing prior to issuance of permit".

By averaging the last 3 years of waste receipts, as reported under section 11507a, Eagle Valley has 9.6 years of capacity remaining. According to the State of Michigan, Waste Management could not ask for an expansion until 2017. The 53-acre expansion Orion just approved will allow Eagle Valley to operate for decades longer than the eight years of remaining disposal capacity that the State of Michigan would have authorized.

The Truth – According to the 2000 Oakland County Solid Waste Plan page VI-11-12 (SWPC Oct 21, 1999-selected.oct) states – "Act 451 and related Administrative Rules provide the county and local ordinances and regulations pertaining to solid waste disposal facilities may not be enforced unless explicitly included within the approved Solid Waste Management Plan. Oakland County is blessed with the existence of 61 local municipalities, more than any county in the State of Michigan. Oakland County therefore does not choose to allow the enforcement of a variety of local ordinances and regulations pertaining to disposal facilities.

Question — This one paragraph was used as an example why the Township had to approve the expansion. Where is the County exempt from the court requirements of the 1991 consent judgment? The consent judgment is a legally binding agreement, not a local ordinance or regulation that Act 451 section 11538 paragraph (8) referrers to. If this were true, then why did Waste Management (in 2003) purchase property to relocate a wetland so they could begin to fill the remaining 14 acres from the original 103-acre foot print that had been approved in 1991? Why didn't they just apply for the permit to fill the 53 acres back in 2003?

The Truth – According to the 1999 Oakland County Solid Waste Plan page VI-17(SWPC Draft May 6, 1999) states – "A January 31, 1991 tri-party consent judgment involving the County, Orion TWP, and Waste Management contained provisions that an expansion of Eagle Valley Landfill would not occur without the prior approval of the Township Board and that the County expressly agreed that no further expansion of the facility or Plan Updates containing expansions or new landfills in the Township would be proposed without the written consent of the Township. Without an expansion of Eagle Valley Landfill its anticipated closure would be 2012".

The 2000 Oakland County Plan made provisions if need be, to secure fill sites to export the solid waste outside of the County.

According to then Supervisor Gibb, it was the State of Michigan that changed Act 451 part 11511a that preempted the local municipalities from siting landfills rendering our 1991 judgment obsolete. He said he struggled with that issue over the last 16 months and could not workout a suitable defense. At the May 2, 2011 Board Meeting he felt obligated to expose the Township's position and tell residents the awful truth of how the township board's hands were tied and they did what was best for the community.

Question — Then why does the 1999 Oakland County Solid Waste Plan necessitate a backup plan to export solid waste out side of Oakland County, due to the anticipated closure of the Eagle Valley Landfill in 2012?

The Truth - April 17, 2003 Oakland County Board of Commissioners Meeting Minutes. Miscellaneous resolution #03090 in re: Waste Management Division – resolution approving changes to the 2000 Solid Waste Plan Update – June 15, 2000. "Be it further resolved to replace the sentence on page III-54 of THE PLAN –"regarding the area approved for which siting is not required for the Eagle Valley Recycling and Disposal Facility with "The County has determined that future expansions, not to exceed 330 total acres, are consistent with the PLAN: "however", the Facility is subject to the requirements of the 1991 consent judgment. Also in a DEQ letter dated June 24, 2003 in response to the Oakland County Board of Commissioners resolution #03090 the DEQ does not understand why the county id enacting the siting mechanism when they have the required 66 months of capacity under Part 115. The DEQ also reminds the County of the 1991 consent agreement pertaining to no more expansions. The DEQ also reminds the county that if it is to do this it must it under applicable enabling legislation according to section 324.11538

Question — If what was told to us was the truth, then why does Oakland County reiterate in 2003 this phrase, "however", the Facility is subject to the requirements of the 1991 consent judgment?" Since the county failed to properly use the siting mechanism the 330 acres it sited for fill expired after 90 days according to section 11538 paragraph 3. The county broke the 1991 agreement and violated the consent agreement.

The Consequences – Unfortunately the fox was watching the hen house so the Eagle Valley Landfill Expansion will take place and we as residents can do nothing.

It's always been about MONEY, not the Health, Safety, and Welfare of the residents. As for the residents that surround the Landfill we all relied on the 1991 Host Community Agreement that prohibited any further expansions of the Eagle Valley without Twp. approval and anticipated its closure in 2012.

We relied on our elected officials to uphold the courts 1991 judgment and protect our Health, Safety, and Welfare. So, in 2012 the landfill will be operating and this Board will be running once again for office. Can we once again trust them to do what's right for all of the community?

The only power they have not taken away from us is the power to vote. So as a reminder just look to the south for the mountain of garbage that was put there for the betterment of our community. The same one which greets every visitor to Orion Township, "Where Living is a Vacation."

Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: don@dontrushmedon.com
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