Michigan will allow Advanced Disposal to flare gas at contentious landfill

Dive Brief:

  • The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has given Advanced Disposal a permit to flare gas at the Arbor Hills Landfill in Salem Township, MI, as reported by The Detroit News.
  • Residents have been told to expect flames at least 20-feet-high on the northern part of the site for the next year. This is intended to reduce excess methane, which has been causing odor complaints. Though residents should not expect immediate relief for these odor issues.
  • Local residents have been filing complaints for years and one group filed a class action lawsuit in April 2016 over "noxious odors" that have allegedly created a nuisance and reduced property values.

Dive Insight:

According to MDEQ, it first began receiving complaints about the site in January 2016. The situation is complex because multiple companies — including Republic Services — were responsible for operating different parts of the site and this led to legal conflict last spring. The state has since issued multiple violation notices and the companies later began working collaboratively to address the issue. Advanced took over the gas collection system recently and is in the process of assessing what infrastructure improvements can be made.

Based on EPA data, the site has had landfill gas capture systems in place for decades that are capable of generating nearly 28 MW of electricity. Like all major landfill operators Advanced has made recent investments into gas collection projects at other sites, though because it wasn't directly responsible for the Arbor Hills system until recently an adjustment period can be expected. A proposed expansion at the site has been put on hold until these issues are resolved and it is currently projected to close in 2035.

While at least one site in California recently switched back to flaring gas due to complicated state regulations many are moving away from the practice. Due to the Obama administration's focus on methane reduction and the potential to make money from renewable energy credits more companies are investing in systems that can convert their landfill gas into pipeline quality, often to fuel their fleets. Future investments like this could be possible at the Arbor Hills site, but for now the main priority is to get odors under control and repair community relations.

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Filed Under: Corporate News Landfill
Top image credit: Advanced Disposal