stench Seeking Solutions for the
Despite Arbor Hills' efforts, landfill odors still causing stink with locals [ By Scott Daniel ]
or decades, Arbor Hills Landfill sat just over Northville Township’s western border at Six Mile and Napier roads collecting waste from communities across metropolitan Detroit in relative anonymity. All of that changed in late 2015 when residents in township subdivisions like Steeplechase, Arcadia Ridge and Stonewater started smelling odors coming from the landfill. Flash forward to the present where more than 3,000 odor complaints have been filed and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has issued 49 violations to landfill operator Advanced Disposal Services (ADS) and on-site gasto-electricity producer Fortistar Methane Group. Toss in a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency consent agreement, a non-profit conservancy dedicated to holding the landfill operator accountable and a township government trying to lookout for its residents
6 The ‘Ville
and you’ve got the recipe for a multilayered, messy pie. “I clearly want to articulate our apology for any odors that are causing an inconvenience to the community,” Arbor Hills General Manager Mark Johnson said. “We want to make this a world-class facility not just for ADS, but the community. That’s my goal and I won’t be happy until we’re there.” By all accounts, getting there will take time. On March 14, the MDEQ issued a violation notice to the company. A total of 15 citations were made by Senior Environmental Engineer Mike Kovalchick in the notice, ranging from landfill cap integrity and leachate seeps to landfill gas collection system problems. He also noted improper asbestos disposal, saying the company wasn’t covering asbestos waste on a daily basis, a requirement under environmental law. Asbestos comes to landfills
in bags, which sometimes burst after being dumped. Regulations require such material to be covered with soil daily. The notice raised concerns that ADS wasn’t covering asbestos disposal pits until they were filled, which Kovalchick wrote can take “days or weeks.” In an interview with The ’Ville, Kovalchick said the company had taken steps to correct asbestos disposal problems before an April 4 deadline outlined in the violation notice. “I feel they’re doing a better job handling it,” he said. In a follow up inspection, Kovalchick said, “I didn’t see any asbestos blowing around.” Kovalchick works out of the MDEQ’s Jackson office in the Air Quality Division. He said several other department divisions have been involved in inspection and enforcement actions at the landfill over the years.
“We are aggressively working to identify the problems and get the company to comply with applicable laws and regulations,” Kovalchick said. Despite the ongoing problems, he said ADS has been responsive overall. “We seem to be moving in the right direction.” OLD INFRASTRUCTURE Johnson took the reins of Arbor Hills about a month ago. He has 30 years of experience in the industry, including time at Republic Services and Waste Management. His marching orders from Advanced Disposal are clear -- get the landfill’s infrastructure up to snuff to eliminate odor issues and public health concerns. “I spent a good portion of my first month just walking the entire facility, well by well to identify what’s going on systemwise,” said Johnson. “I think I’ve got a pretty good grip on what we need to do.” While ADS acquired the