State sues Northville-area landfill, alleges health, safety violations

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Northville — State Attorney General Dana Nessel and other elected officials gathered Friday to announce a lawsuit has been filed against operators of the Arbor Hills Landfill, alleging its operator has failed to comply with state and federal regulations and endangered the health and safety of nearby residents.

Nessel told reporters the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy is seeking civil damages in the “six-figure range” still to be determined.

“They (operators) will have 28 days to respond and we will see where we will go from there,” Nessel told The Detroit News. 

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced a lawsuit on Friday, October 23, 2020 in Northville, against Advanced Disposal Services, operators of the Arbor Hills Landfill, for their continuous violation of environmental regulations.

Nessel and EGLE are seeking injunctive relief in Ingham County Circuit Court to require Advanced Disposal Services Arbor Hills Landfill Inc. to operate in compliance with state and federal law for air quality and solid waste management. 

“The operator of the Arbor Hills Landfill has continually demonstrated a blatant disregard for the serious concerns raised by community members and the state,” Nessel said. “This site has been a nuisance for years and the potential threat to the health of nearby residents is significant.

"At this juncture, legal action is clearly a necessity and my office will support EGLE’s enforcement efforts so that our residents’ health and our natural resources are not subjected to the hazardous pollution created by this landfill.”  

The suit alleges that Advanced Disposal Services has failed to install an adequate collection and control system to capture gas generated from both active and nonactive areas of the landfill and failed to address leachate issues at the site.   

Leachate is the liquid that gathers along the bottom double-liner of a landfill and can include liquid from waste, rainwater and other outside sources. If not properly managed and removed, it can build up and potentially contaminate groundwater and other water resources. 

“Our goal is to ensure Arbor Hills Landfill is not a nuisance to neighbors, and that the facility operates safely in compliance with state and federal laws for air quality and waste management,” said EGLE Director Liesl Clark.

The operator indicated it would fix the problems but has failed to act, according to the 83-page complaint, which has been assigned to Ingham Circuit Judge Wanda M. Stokes.  

Calls from The News for comment to both Arbor Hills Landfill offices and the corporate offices of Advance Disposal were not immediately returned Friday.

Area residents have complained for more than four years about offensive odors coming from the landfill at 10690 W. Six Mile in Washtenaw County’s Salem Township.

 Solid waste landfills emit air pollutants, including hydrogen sulfide and methane. Hydrogen sulfide emissions contribute to the nuisance odors.  Methane is extremely flammable and presents safety risks if not properly managed.

Following investigations by EGLE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, fugitive emissions were found to be the primary source of the odors. The state department issued multiple violation notices to the operator for its failures to properly operate the landfill and the gas collection and control system.  

The Arbor Hills Landfill is seen over the rooftops of homes in Northville on October 23, 2020. Northville Township filed a lawsuit against the landfill Tuesday in Wayne County Circuit Court arguing its operators breached a sewer service contract by discharging wastewater and has caused "substantial harm to Northville Township and its residents."

State Rep. Matt Koleszar, D-Plymouth, and state Sen. Dayna Polehanki, D-Livonia,  whose districts include the Arbor Hills Landfill, said they have been fielding calls from residents' about the site. They credited citizens’ reports and efforts with prompting Friday’s legal action.

“This progress is due to the tireless work of advocates in our community,” said Koleszar. “Our friends and neighbors stood up to say corporate polluters who willingly contaminate Michigan’s air, water and land for the sake of profit must be held accountable — and I stand with you. I want to thank the attorney general for joining us in this fight to protect our home.

“A bad actor is going to be held accountable,” he said. 

"Northville Township residents have suffered far too long due to the negligence of the operators of the Arbor Hills Landfill,” said Polehanki. “Their blatant disregard for air quality has been a nuisance to our community for years without meaningful improvement. Our community members and leaders persistently sounded the alarm about the landfill’s continuous violations, and I am grateful for their fierce advocacy.”

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