Source: Sherman Publications

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DEQ completes analysis of Eagle Valley expansion

by Gabriel L. Ouzounian

August 24, 2011

Nearly everything is in place for the expansion of Waste Management's Eagle Valley Landfill in Orion Township, with the exception of a permit to increase its capacity from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

According to the DEQ, Waste Management has not filed for the final permission process, despite being cleared to do so on June 14.

"The statute requires (Waste Management) to request an advisory analysis and, once cleared on that, they can submit an application to expand," said Greg Morrow, senior environmental engineer, Michigan DEQ. "We provided them with their requested report a couple of months ago, but have yet to see an application. That's really not that strange though -- I don't expect to get the application this year."

According to Morrow, Waste Management has indicated it is in the preliminary design stages of the expansion with a lot of work still to do. He said the permit application the DEQ receives will likely be technical in nature, presenting methods for containing, engineering, monitoring and maintaining any landfill expansion.

As for the report filed in June, three issues with the landfill came to Morrow's attention after investigating the site.

The issues include approaching the county and making sure Waste Management secures adequate permitting for sedimentation control and soil erosion, which is something the site already has, Morrow said. He also added the company needs to contact the DEQ air quality division since part of the expansion would require the firm to relocate gas removal systems.

"I looked at our database prior to my investigation to see their compliance history, and they haven't had a violation in the last two years and that's pretty good," Morrow said. "The times they have been cited, (Waste Management) addresses the problem quickly and we have never taken any escalated action against them.

"We don't get many complaints on the site, and I'd say it's pretty rare we've gotten a citizen complaint," he added.

Yet Eric Stieber, a Waldon Road resident, takes issue with Waste Management and the landfill, but not because of any kind of eyesore or stench issues. His problem originates with how the company treats its neighbors and customers following the approval of the expansion by the township -- a topic which has generated a fair amount of controversy.

"If the expansion was going behind my house, I wouldn't mind and the township has been pretty good to me as well, but things get kind of shady when you see that we didn't hear about the agreement, didn't get to vote one way or another and then there's the letter Waste Management sent out," Stieber said.

What he received was "the world's smallest carrot", which said if his sell my house in the next five years, the company would make up the difference - up to 90 percent of the appraisal value of the house if there was not a landfill in his neighborhood.

"First, I'm not selling my house in five years - it would be stupid in this economy - but more than that it's just kind of insulting," Stieber said. "You get this little bit and if they want to they can have me show up to any meetings and support them whenever. You're signing a lot of stuff for not a whole lot back."

The recent controversy is over a signed agreement from earlier this year between Orion Township and Waste Management that enables the company to proceed with permitting for an expansion that will allow the landfill to operate for an additional 30 years. The landfill is located south of Waldon Road, north of W. Silverbell Road, between Giddings and M-24.

The Eagle Valley landfill expansion is on the agenda for the next Orion Township Board Meeting, scheduled for Monday, Aug. 29, at 7 p.m.