- Michigan-based nonprofit Conservancy Initiative has filed a notice of intent to sue Advanced Disposal-owned Arbor Hills Landfill in Northville, Michigan, as reported by FOX 2 Detroit. The statement was made by Conservancy Initiative President Tracey Birkenhauer at a town hall meeting on Tuesday, where local residents turned out en masse to voice concerns over ongoing emissions from the landfill.
- The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) first began receiving air quality complaints from the adjacent community in 2016 and has since issued multiple violations to Arbor Hills for improper operations — some as recently as April.
- The landfill's ongoing infringements have drawn the attention of state legislators, who have drafted a proposal (Senate Bill 0261) to increase fines imposed on the facility to up to $100,000 — 10 times the current amount. "We think they've been a little egregious," Senator Dayna Polehanki said at Tuesday night's meeting. "And it necessitates some sort of legislation to up the ante a little bit and show the waste management companies that we're really serious and you can't ignore violations."
The 337-acre MSW landfill, which has operated in Washtenaw County, Michigan since 1970, holds a rocky recent track record. Following odor complaints from nearby residents in 2016, MDEQ conducted a series of on-site inspections with U.S. EPA, ultimately issuing the site with multiple violations over its gas collection and control system.
Per requirements outlined in an EPA-issued compliance plan, Advanced Disposal withdrew its landfill expansion request and embarked on a series of upgrade initiatives in 2017 — including gas system improvements, a new header system and new well installations — achieving, according to an MDEQ 2018 action summary, "a significant increase in gas collection and control."
Infractions have continued to accumulate, however. MDEQ has issued seven violation notices against Arbor Hills since the beginning of the year for improper operation of gas collection wells, odors, underground movement of gas and excessive levels of leachate, numerous air quality violations, lack of back-up flaring capacity.
Community tensions have also continued to escalate — MDEQ has received just under 1,000 landfill-related complaints this year and nearly 2,000 complaints in 2018, according to ClickOnDetroit.
According to the filed Notice of Intent, the Conservancy Initiative "intends to seek all available civil fines and penalties for each violation" of the federal Clean Air Act (CAA), Code of Federal Regulations, Michigan State Implementation Plans (SIP) and Advanced Disposal's operational permits until judicial proceedings conclude. In addition to pursuing an award of costs and fees under the CAA, it will also "seek to remedy [Arbor Hills] and [Advanced Disposal's] long history of violations by asking for appropriate injunctive relief prohibiting ongoing non-compliance with federally-enforceable standards and limitations, appointing a special master or other independent monitor to ensure future compliance and to log future non-compliance with the CAA and Michigan SIP, and requiring beneficial environmental projects in the vicinity of the facilities."
David Horan, director of the Conservancy Initiative, declined to comment on the specifics of the forthcoming lawsuit, but framed the organization's legal move as a last resort.
"We don't want to sue them, but given the continued multiple violations at the landfill with no real improvement or consequences for ADS, we are exploring our legal options," Horan told Waste Dive via email. "We have two goals[:] force ADS to comply with environmental regulations [and] prevent them from expanding their landfill in this area beyond the current permit."
"If ADS could get the system working correctly at Arbor Hills and sell off the surrounding land, we wouldn't be in this situation," he added.
Waste Dive has contacted Advanced Disposal for any reaction to these recent developments, with no response as of publication. Waste Management recently announced plans to acquired Advanced Disposal, which could be finalized by early 2020.