Michigan DEQ has 'serious concern' about methane levels at Superfund site
- The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expressing concern that methane from the G&H Landfill, a Superfund site, is migrating into nearby homes, as reported by MLive.
- Methane levels outside of the property line hit 7.1% by volume at one location, according to MLive. Most readings around nearby homes were non-detectable or "below action levels" — but MDEQ said it does not have data to show the methane migration is stopping before it enters nearby homes. Inside the property line, the MDEQ found methane levels as high as 73.2% by volume.
- MDEQ is working on constructing a barrier around the landfill site, to block methane pathways so the gas doesn't make it into nearby homes. However, the barrier "cannot be completed anytime soon" and the agency doesn't have all the information on methane migration routes that it needs.
Waste is usually a local issue, and for good reason — unique local circumstances and scenarios require unique and local action and planning. When it comes to big problems, though, like cleanup from a hurricane, local action sometimes needs state or even federal support. The Superfund project is the prime example of when local issues need more support than can come from local actors.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has called Superfund projects a priority for the agency, saying that he wants to see a "top 10" list of sites to target aggressively. As of now, Pruitt and the EPA have not released a list or confirmed any sites that would be on it — though he has hinted at a public housing complex in Indiana and the West Lake landfill near St. Louis, MO.
It's unclear, though, if any planned sites for the "top 10" list could be bumped off because of uncontrollable circumstances. Hurricane Harvey flooded or damaged 13 Superfund sites in Texas, and the damage hasn't been fully evaluated. With Hurricane Irma barreling through the Atlantic, the dozens of Superfund sites in Florida could be in the path of a storm that's been called "potentially catastrophic."
If these natural disasters prove to be a disaster for Superfund projects, it's plausible that those sites would be prioritized over others. Combined with a battle over the EPA's budget, projects like the G&H Landfill, which may not place human health in immediate danger, could be a low priority on the list of thousands of active Superfund sites for federal action.
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