Source: Sherman Publications

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Debate over Eagle Valley expansion continues

by Gabriel L. Ouzounian

July 20, 2011

The debate over the legitimacy of an Eagle Valley expansion has again been called into question.

Since it came out in public this past May that the township signed off on allowing the landfill to expand, area residents have been concernd the appoval was rushed and reeks of something other than above the board politics.

Even JoAnn VanTassel, township superintedent, who then as a trustee made the motion to approve the expansion, has public stated the board was rushed.

One township official said more than loopholes, a gathering of public disapproval is what will eventually be the landfill's closer.

"In executive discussion, when we came out with the motion to authorize the supervisor to work with our attorney to finalize the agreement, there were a number of us that voted 'no' in the three-to-four decision," said Township Clerk Penny Shults, Monday afternoon.

"Number one, we voted 'no' because there was no public hearing at that time," she said, "And second, I think we all felt the landfill was big enough.

"I believe a community always has an input and we chose not to use that right. Now, if we wanted to try and stop the permit from being issued, we would have to find that there are environmental concerns. But the more people that come together against this issue the stronger their argument, whether or not the state is the issuer of the permit."

Last month Waste Management, which owns the landfill, sent out letters to about 100 home owners in the township offering to be reimbursed for their homes. The deadline to accept was Monday, July 18.

"I did not accept it and a number of my neighbors did not, either," said resident MaryAnn Ryan. "They did this in the 1990s and some of the people who did, were sorry they did. They signed away all their rights to protest."

The issue, as it stands, seems somewhat helpless for residents against the Eagle Valley Landfill expansion. After the May 18 Orion Township Board meeting, steps were taken to expand the landfill's size by a number of acres, increasing its height an additional 25 feet and lengthen the operation's life-span by over 30 years. Most of the agreement went on largely outside the public eye, causing the announcement of the agreements finalization to spark controversy and debate and eventually a hastily called "public hearing."

One of the arguments in favor of Township's final decision revolves around a law dictating the state government is responsible for granting permits for expansion. The argument essentially points out either the township work with Waste Management to ease the stress the township would take and increase the income they would get as a result of the expansion, or walk away empty handed with the expansion continuing anyway.

"I know the agreement called for Waste Management to deposit a nonrefundable $100,000 check to the township and they have done that," said VanTassel. "There are other conditions, like tipping fees, that were also agreed on.

"Because of a change in the early 2000s, communities that had landfills could enter into a host fee agreement, but they had no control over the size of the landfill. The only thing we have some control over are the hours of operation, fees, but a state law can supersede our ruling on that as well. If I had known then, that the township had some fighting authority, I would have not voted (to accept the agreement.)"

Before the Eagle Valley Landfill can proceed with the expansion, they must wait while the Michigan States government Department of Environmental Quality conducts investigations to assure that the landfill is not causing any severe damage, something that Shults indicated would likely affect well water used by the surrounding communities.

Other than the environmental concerns, Shults also pointed out a number of reasons she remains staunchly against the expansion, including heavy traffic, the height, the smell, the wear and tear on the roads, and the sight.

"I look at it overtime I drive home and I cannot even imagine what it will look like with an addition 25

feet at the top," said Shults. "Theres actually a mobile home community that sits between Eagle Valley and another landfill that relies on well water and I cannot think their situation is good.

"This should have been a community decision - we all should have weighed in - because this expansion will affect us for generations."

The Eagle Valley Landfill, run by Waste Management, is located at 600 Silverbell Road in Orion Township. Those interested in learning more about the landfill or getting customer service can contact them at (800) 796-9696.