Warren mayor, Macomb County spar over work at former landfill
A Facebook post by Warren Mayor Jim Fouts warning taxpayers of a possible “mini” Flint environmental scare in Macomb County has been dismissed by county officials.
Deputy Executive Mark Deldin said the public is not in any immediate danger after a recent evaluation concluded there were spiked methane gas readings in a berm that was built over a landfill at Freedom Hill Amphitheater in Sterling Heights.
There is also leaking leachate and missing or broken trees, he said.
The berm was built in the past year and a half — using dirt from county road projects — to level the Freedom Hill parking lot, create a sound barrier for residents living nearby and block headlights from shining into adjacent neighborhoods, Deldin said.
Deldin and County Executive Mark Hackel have argued Fouts misled residents into thinking their water was contaminated by referencing Flint in his Facebook post last week.
Flint has had high lead levels in its tap water the past year.
“For the mayor to go out and make an allegation that this is a public health hazard is absolutely factually baseless,” Hackel said Monday. “This is everything to try to incite the public.”
In subsequent Facebook posts, Fouts clarified his statement saying the water was safe but accused Macomb County officials of a “Freedom Hill SMDA landfill cover-up” that was “designed to ‘hush up’ a major environmental mistake.”
The SMDA is the South Macomb Disposal Authority which previously handled waste disposal for Warren, Center Line, Eastpointe, Roseville and St. Clair Shores.
Fouts said dumping dirt on the landfill disrupted the stability of the site, caused methane gas to come out and leachate to leak. He said the toxic chemicals could reach the nearby Red Run drain which connects to the Clinton River and then Lake St. Clair.
“This is a serious issue that should not have been allowed,” Fouts said. “It really has to do with bad decision-making on the part of elected officials.”
He also questions whether the county followed proper protocols before dumping excavated dirt on a landfill.
Deldin said the county obtained a soil erosion permit to create the berm at Freedom Hill.
Macomb County has also consulted with an environmental firm and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality regarding its problems with the berm.
“It could be as a result of too much dirt being placed on the parking lot even though we had a permit to do it,” Deldin said.
Remediation will include regrading the berm; repairing damaged vents, which are used to ensure that methane gas evaporates; replacing broken trees; and plugging holes with clean clay fill where leachate is seeping through, Deldin said.
The leachate issue is being addressed, he said.
The county is awaiting a report from an environmental consulting firm with advice for making corrections.
“(Residents) should not be worried,” Deldin said. “(Fouts’) comments are unfounded.”