Residents rise up against Northville Twp. leaders’ inaction

Roughly 100 local residents poured into Northville Twp. Hall on March 21 to voice serious health concerns with Advanced Disposal’s Arbor Hills Landfill in Washtenaw County.

Recent violations issued by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) show elevated sulfur dioxide (SO2) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) levels plus mismanagement of asbestos and frac waste. They also detailed a long-ongoing leachate outbreak and issues with sewage sludge.

The landfill has been exceeding sulfur dioxide levels at least since 2015. The landfill’s solution? Raise the allowable levels. Yes, they want to increase the level of pollution and the potential health risks. The landfill has already applied to the MDEQ to do exactly that. Northville Twp. leadership has not notified residents of the potential health issues or the increased pollution in the air. Northville Twp. has not even come out against the landfill raising its SO2 levels.

An April 19, 2016 report by the MDEQ regarding methane (CH4) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) emissions said the hydrogen sulfide emission levels at Arbor Hills Landfill indicate “a potential acute human health hazard.” Read the report

Northville Twp. leaders never notified residents about this report or the elevated hydrogen sulfide levels. In fact, Northville Twp. Supervisor Bob Nix said at the March 21 meeting he was just recently made aware of these issues. Residents say this is hard to believe, especially since The Conservancy Initiative has been posting these reports and violations since 2016 and the township gets copies of violations and relevant reports.

After three-plus years of fighting the mismanagement and proposed expansion of this landfill, residents are tired but also infuriated. For over three years, they have witnessed their township taking little action. The township fired its lobbyist shortly after promising residents he was working full-time to address issues with Arbor Hills Landfill. Township trustees claim they attended landfill meetings that residents can confirm they did not attend. Trustees have told residents this is the “most important issue” in Northville Twp. yet they refuse to even add the landfill to their meeting agendas. Resident requests have been denied.

The Conservancy Initiative environmental nonprofit has been requesting a special town hall meeting for years. The first and only dedicated town hall was Sept. 7, 2017. Hundreds of residents attended. Most were denied their legal right to speak, as Supervisor Nix shut down the meeting while residents were waiting to speak.

On March 21, residents brought their children, protest posters, demands, and lots of questions. They got few answers.

Residents had many demands:

  • Stop sending waste to Arbor Hills Landfill.
  • Notify residents on poor air quality days.
  • Form a commission dedicated to resolving landfill issues.
  • Hold Salem Twp., the landfill’s host community, accountable.
  • Consult a lawyer to determine strategy.
  • Rehire the township lobbyist.
  • Block the landfill’s request to increase sulfur dioxide emissions.
  • Install air quality monitoring stations throughout the community.

Several media outlets were present, increasing the intensity of the meeting.

Northville Record article
Note: This article says Northville Twp. Supervisor Bob Nix invited The Conservancy Initiative president Tracey Birkenhauer to a meeting with the landfill. That is inaccurate. He invited her to a private meeting after he met with the landfill. To date, he has not invited the environmental nonprofit to any meetings with the landfill or with state representatives.

WDIV-Channel 4 story

More violations for Arbor Hills Landfill

Advanced Disposal’s Arbor Hills Landfill in Washtenaw County has received two more violations from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). Arbor Hills Landfill has received seven MDEQ violations already this year.

Advanced Disposal violation

Fortistar Methane Group violation

A violation was issued to Advanced Disposal Services, the landfill’s owner and permit holder. Fortistar Methane Group, known locally as Arbor Hills Energy, also received a violation. Responses from these polluters are due to the MDEQ by April 4, 2019.

Landfill gas is actively collected, treated, and processed at a gas-to-energy turbine plant adjacent to the landfill. The plant is owned and operated by Fortistar Methane Group.

According to Advanced Disposal’s violation notice, “The Company is adding sewage sludge and other types of wastewater sludge material to Cell 4E… This cell is not controlled by a landfill gas collection system that has been activated, so calculations need to be done to show that the percent moisture by weight expected in the waste mass to which liquid is being added is less than 40 percent. (Note: Recent Company disclosure that as much as 27 feet of leachate was sitting on parts of the landfill liner for Cell 4 suggests the waste mass may have become saturated. This could greatly accelerate the generation of landfill gas in a location that is not yet controlled by the gas well collection system.)”

Leachate is a landfill waste product created when rainwater flows through decomposing waste and picks up toxic contaminants. The creation of leachate, sometimes called “garbage soup” or “garbage juice,” presents a major threat to the current and future quality of ground water. A release of leachate to the ground water may present several risks to human health and the environment.

The violation notice also says a leachate seep has been present at the landfill since at least May 2018 and has yet to be resolved.

The notices of violation are based on physical observations made during site inspections and records provided immediately following. The violations are significant.

According to their violation, Advanced Disposal Services is not handling asbestos properly. Warning signs are not posted, mapping of locations containing asbestos are not complete, the MDEQ’s Air Quality Division is not being notified as required prior to digging in asbestos areas. The Air Quality Division does not believe the landfill is covering asbestos daily. Uncovered asbestos can become airborne, impacting the community downwind.

According to the violation, “Based on the three (3) visits to the active asbestos disposal areas, there is a concern that the asbestos waste is not being covered with soil each evening on days after a shipment has been received. Rather, it is suspected that it is being done when a disposal pit is full which can take days or weeks. The disposal area on top of the landfill is highly exposed to wind and any asbestos from a broken bag could be quickly blown downwind. It also could represent a hazard to workers servicing nearby landfill gas wells or truck drivers in the area.”

Landfill cover is not being maintained.

Numerous problems are cited with the landfill cover the quarterly methane scans which are required to verify the landfill cover is doing its job (providing a seal on the top of the landfill). Obvious issues which are identified on inspection reports are not corrected. MDEQ does not believe the quarterly methane scans are being adequately performed. These scans should be used to identify and correct problems with the landfill cover and methane leaks.

Gas collection & control system (GCCS) non-compliant

Environmental regulations require the gas system be properly designed and maintained to handle water/liquid leachate in gas wells. Leachate levels in a significant number of the gas wells (215) cover over 50% of the perforated screen (area available for gas flow). Several wells are mostly saturated or completely blocked with leachate. The leachate is blocking the gas system from doing its job – the landfill is water-logged. The Air Quality Division presents a significant amount of data to make their point. The Air Quality Division verbally suggested the landfill will be “dewatered” in the future and they believe this will improve gas removal.

The MDEQ also points out that the landfill operators are ignoring data taken at each well in the gas system monthly. Regulations require adjustments must be made to keep wellhead pressures at a vacuum. If conditions cannot be quickly corrected, the MDEQ must be notified and Alternate Compliance Timing (ACT) must be submitted. Advanced Disposal/Fortistar are not following these required practices – this is a continuing problem which has been cited before.

Flare (Advanced Disposal)

The MDEQ states there were several incidents in which landfill gas has not been able to reach the flare for more than one hour. MDEQ verbally confirmed that the flaring capacity is still only about 5,000 standard cubic feet per minute while about 12,000 standard cubic feet per minute of landfill gas is produced at times.

The MDEQ’s Air Quality Division has requested an update on past violation notices related to Arbor Hills Landfill’s flares.

Smelly stuff

  • The MDEQ noted odorous leachate seeps and the portable frac tanks which have been present since at least May 2018
  • New leachate seeps, gas bubbles and an active landfill vent which is venting directly to atmosphere near six mile road were identified. Gas is being generated but is not being removed by the GCCS.
  • Odorous compost is being received and stored – at a minimum, it should be quickly processed but a company concerned with odors would reject these types of loads.
  • Highly odorous piles of contaminated soil are being stored, uncovered at the top of the landfill awaiting use at daily cover. The use of a cheap cover material must trump odor concerns.
  • Advanced is accepting sewer sludge into cell 4. The sludge contains a high level of liquids which will accelerate gas generation. This portion of the landfill has no gas collection.

“Liquid levels for the gas wells listed in Attachment (2) raises concerns about the functionality of these gas wells. Many of the wells listed also exhibit high methane concentrations (over 55%) along with notes indicating that the valve is 100% open. This is a strong indication that liquid levels are impeding gas collection. In addition, even if the wells with high liquid levels appear to be productive currently, the long-term presence of liquids can contribute to fouling of the stone and well screen, reducing the effectiveness of these wells over time. The Company should immediately begin evaluating the gas wells listed in Attachment (2) to determine which wells warrant the installation of pumps or to identify other appropriate corrective actions.

“The site visit conducted on March 12, 2019, identified new sources of odors at the facility in addition to the TS-01 seep and associated odorous “frac” tanks. These include a new leachate seep located just west of the TS-01 seep with a leachate creek draining down towards the base of the landfill, and two highly odorous landfill gas areas coming out of the ground located above the north gee-liner. Odors were also coming from a passive landfill gas vent located near Six ­Mile road. In addition, there was a probable landfill gas bubble under the gee-liner on the northwest side of the landfill, a much larger gas bubble under the north gee-liner on the liner’s west side, and a surface landfill gas seep just above the TS-01 area. Please provide an update on how the Company will be dealing with these new areas of concern.

WXYZ reports high SO2 at Arbor Hills Landfill


One of the most common, ongoing, issues at the Arbor Hills Landfill are the odor concerns. ADS notes that landfills will never be able to fully eliminate odors, but after a recent violation notice filed by MDEQ ADS responded saying that they have assigned a full-time compost manager to oversee the yard waste operations. According to responses from ADS, there are ongoing issues with what’s known as a “flare” which is needed to burn off excess methane gas when it can’t go to the energy plant that burns it to power up to 10,000 nearby homes.

This means that when the energy plant isn’t capable of burning the gases put out by the landfill, the flare doesn’t have the capacity to burn the excess gases.

Read the entire story


An ongoing concern at Arbor Hills has to do with the amount of sulfur dioxide that is going into the air. In a violation dated February 1, MDEQ notes that ADS is attempting to get permission from the EPA to increase the limit of SO2 it discharges. The EPA sets limits for the amount of SO2 that can be discharged because it can cause coughing, throat irritation and breathing difficulties for some people — especially those that are sensitive to air quality such as people with asthma. High concentrations of SO2 can affect lung function.

According to ADS, the sulfur dioxide problems stem from Fortistar — a second company that operates the gas-to-energy plant that burns methane gases that are collected at the landfill. ADS is simultaneously working on back-up systems (the flare) which was described in the “odor concerns” section above.


A recent violation cited ADS for having too much leachate on-site. Leachate is essentially the “garbage juices” that come off landfill sites. Landfills are supposed to keep the amount in specific areas within allowable levels/amounts. Since the violation, 7 Action News has been told, that ADS is working to extract and discharge leachate in a way that is MDEQ compliant — they note that the issue was with a specific section of the landfill, not the entirety of the facility.

Advanced Disposal violation response

Advanced Disposal Services’ latest violation response highlights concerns for their compliance with regulations enforced by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.  Arbor Hills Landfill has received three violations from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality already this year.

View violations

The response reads: “Unfortunately (and as previously communicated to the DEQ), during commissioning in early December, issues with the blowers became evident – they could not sustain operation at normal load and this concern was promptly communicated to Lone Star Blowers, Inc., the blower manufacturer. Since that time, Arbor Hills has been diligently trying to work through the issue with Lone Star. As it became evident to Advanced Disposal that Lone star was not going to be capable of timely remedying the blower issues to satisfy the intended design standard, Advanced Disposal has now had to elect an alternative manufacturer for a permanent resolution but continues to devote substantial resources to obtain as much operational capability on interim basis within the shortest possible time frame.”

According to The Conservancy Initiative’s attorney, the company should have made itself aware of the condition of the blowers much earlier, at the time they were negotiating actions needed to comply with the EPA consent order. 

The response says: “The work originally initiated by Arbor Hills in November 2018 to replace the existing blowers was to provide 12,000 scfm (standard cubic feet per minute) of design blower capacity. This can only be achieved through matching the blowers and control system so as not to inhibit the performance of any one blower in the arrangement. These are complex systems that require harmonization for efficient landfill gas collection and we have not identified any viable alternative other than asking a new vendor to provide new blowers that will be several months in the making. In the interim Arbor Hills is assembling as much infrastructure as it can to ensure as much back up landfill gas collection as possible. In this regard, it should be noted that the conveyance system upgrades that have been made (24 inch and 36-inch header) have achieved the objective of improving landfill gas collection throughout the landfill footprint.”

Given the nature of issues identified now and previously, there is a concern that the company may not be adequately solving the issues. While they have not stated why they haven’t correctly addressed these issues, it may be likely that the cost of these improvements could be a driver.   As long as sanctions, including potential fines, are less than potential costs of redesigning the landfill gas collection system, there is concern that they will not have the incentive needed to address the issue comprehensively.

Our attorney has cautioned that we don’t have enough information about company decision-making to know for sure whether it is incompetence or indifference that keeps causing problems. From a legal perspective, however, it doesn’t matter.

Enforcement notice!

After years of egregious mismanagement, Advanced Disposal Services (ADS) has received an enforcement notice for failing to remedy issues at Arbor Hills Landfill. Read the enforcement notice.

These issues, detailed in violation notices, include gas, garbage and compost odors that have led to thousands of odor complaints in the last three years. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) issued the enforcement notice on Jan. 24, 2019. It’s addressed to the landfill’s general manager, Bob Walls.

The notice reads: “This letter is to advise you of the commencement of escalated enforcement action against Advanced Disposal Services Arbor Hills Landfill, Inc. (Company). This letter follows the February 2, 2016; March 15, 2016; April 29, 2016; November 8, 2016; December 14, 2016; February 6, 2018; August 31, 2018; October 12, 2018; January 14, 2019; and January 17, 2019 Violation Notices (VNs) issued by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), Air Quality Division (AQD) and Waste Management and Radiological Protection Division (WMRPD).”

Since 2016, Advanced Disposal has received 10 violations for mismanaging Arbor Hills Landfill in Washtenaw County. Fortistar Methane Group has received its own violations dating back to 2015. Republic Services also received violations for failing to maintain and manage its gas collection system. Republic no longer has an interest in Arbor Hills Landfill.

The MDEQ alleges that Advanced Disposal Services’ various operational failures have resulted in air quality and solid waste violations including, but not limited to, nuisance odors as detailed in the violation notices. The MDEQ has asked the company to immediately undertake all actions necessary to resolve all violations identified in the enforcement notice and the violation notices listed above.

The MDEQ is providing Advanced Disposal Services with an opportunity to formally resolve these violations through the entry of a legally enforceable agreement that includes a compliance program and payment of an appropriate monetary penalty (in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.) Deadline is Feb. 8, 2019.

The actions the MDEQ wants them to take include:

  • Shut down compost operation
  • Reduce amount of garbage they accept daily
  • Stop accepting certain types of smelly garbage
  • Install odor monitoring system so as trucks pull in, if garbage is too smelly, they are turned away
  • Reduce size of open face where garbage is added daily

Advanced Disposal Services can either agree to make the changes and accept the fine or they can try to negotiate a different solution. The other option they have is to refuse to comply with these actions. If this happens, then the MDEQ will turn this over to the Attorney General to take them to court to force them to take these actions. Both are considered long-term actions. If it goes to court, it will be years before it is settled.

Residents are invited to an information meeting on March 20 regarding Fortisar Methane Group’s permit change request. Residents can ask questions about the landfill, the enforcement notice and any general questions at this meeting.  

Arbor Hills Landfill was opened in 1970 by Holloway Sand and Gravel.  There have been odor episodes and plenty of other issues throughout the years but residents say it’s never been as bad as it is now. Plymouth, Northville, Salem and Novi residents submitted over 2,000 odor complaints in 2018 alone.

Arbor Hills Landfill in Salem Twp. is permitted by the MDEQ. Waste is delivered to the landfill by both haul and transfer loads. According to its website, Arbor Hills accepts municipal solid waste, construction and demolition debris, municipal and industrial sludges, friable and non-friable asbestos and residual wastes. The facility currently uses tipper service to assist with unloading of waste trailers. 

Arbor Hills Landfill is included in the state of Michigan County Solid Waste Plans, has contracts with residual waste generators in both Michigan and surrounding states and accepts waste from Advanced Disposal subsidiaries and third-party companies, according to its website.

Another odor violation for Arbor Hills Landfill

Advanced Disposal Services has yet another odor violation to add to its collection. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) issued the violation notice to Advanced Disposal Services, Arbor Hills Landfill Inc. on Jan. 17, 2019. This is the fifteenth violation The Conservancy Initiative has uncovered in its investigation dating back to 2015.

Read the violation

On Janaury 4, 2019, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Air Quality Division (AQD), conducted an odor evaluation and complaint investigation as part of an ongoing investigation of longstanding periodic complaints regarding nuisance odors alleged to be the result of operations at the Advanced Disposal Services, Arbor Hills Landfill Inc. (ADS) located at 10690 West Six Mile Road, Northville, Michigan. (Note: the landfill is in Salem Twp., Washtenaw County but has a Northville mailing address.)

According to the violation notice, “The purpose of this investigation is to determine ADS compliance with the requirements of the federal Clean Air Act; Part 55, Air Pollution Control, and Part 115, Solid Waste Management, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended (Act 451); and the administrative rules promulgated pursuant to these parts; and to investigate recent complaints which we received on January 4, 2019, regarding foul odors attributed to ADS operations.”

During the investigation performed on January 4, 2019, AQD staff detected a distinct and definite objectionable landfill compost/garbage/gas odor along Napier Road before W. Six Mile Road and in the residential area on the southwest side of the Steeplechase Subdivision, specifically Briar Ridge Lane, downwind of the facility.

The observed landfill odor is a violation of Rule 901 (b). The Rule 901(b) violation also constitutes a violation of Rule 433(1)(c) since the landfill odor generated by the facility created a nuisance odor beyond the property boundary, according to the notice.

Advanced Disposal Services must submit a written response to this violation notice by Feb. 11, 2019. The written response should include: the dates the violation occurred; an explanation of the causes and duration of the violation; whether the violation is ongoing; a summary of the actions that have been taken and are proposed to be taken to correct the violation and the dates by which these actions will take place; and what steps are being taken to prevent a reoccurrence.

Who to contact
Scott Miller, MDEQ Air Quality Supervisor
(517) 416-5992 or

Bob Walls, Arbor Hills Landfill general manager
888-443-1717 or

Arbor Hills Landfill gets violation for gas wells

Advanced Disposal’s Arbor Hills Landfill received yet another violation from the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality on Jan. 14, 2019 for failing to properly maintain landfill gas wells. In fact, 19 of 31 wells identified were out of compliance.

Read the violation

Arbor Hills Landfill is Advanced Disposal Service’s only landfill in Michigan and it’s Washtenaw County’s only operating landfill. Most of the waste at Arbor Hills – about 90% – is imported from nearby counties and states, according to data from Washtenaw County.

According to the violation notice: “Advanced Disposal Services -Arbor Hills Landfill Inc. is aware that the NSPS (Standards of Performance for New Sources ) 60.755(a)(5) allows a facility to request an ACT (alternative compliance timeline) for correcting exceedances of GCCS (gas collection and control system) well operating parameters. The deadline for submitting an alternative request is 15 days from the exceedance. Alternative timeline requests received outside of the 15 days may be denied by AQD (MDEQ Air Quality Division). Facilities should include any denied request in their semi-annual deviation reports.”

This is the fourteenth violation for Arbor Hills Landfill we’re aware of, going back to September 2015 when they received a violation for sulfur dioxide emissions. Arbor Hills has received violations from the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Learn more

New lawmakers agree to help stop the dump

Congresswoman Haley Stevens and state Rep. Matt Koleszar both declared their intentions to help stop the mismanagement and expansion of Arbor Hills Landfill in Washtenaw County at a town hall meeting on Jan. 13, 2019.

“There’s no reason you should have to live with those smells coming into your household,” Koleszar said.

Unlike her predecessor, newly elected Stevens agreed Congress can assist with this issue.

“Certainly there’s a role for the federal government here to weigh in and to work with our state partners,” Stevens said.

Koleszar plans to host a special meeting to discuss issues with Advanced Disposal’s landfill in the next couple of months. He recently met with Northville Twp. Supervisor Bob Nix to address the issues related to the landfill. He plans to have similar discussions with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who attended the town hall.

Koleszar said he doesn’t want to make any promises before he gathers all of the information he needs but he said he stands with the residents of his district and he wants us to have clean air.

Please consider us this Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is the most generous day of the year! Please consider The Conservancy Initiative as you decide where you donate.

We have had many successes this year.
We have done so much. But there is SO much yet to do!
  • We want to hire a lobbying firm to advocate for us in Lansing. Advanced Disposal has a team of lobbyists attempting to convince legislators they need a new landfill.
  • We want to hire a lawyer to privately enforce violations the MDEQ doesn’t have the inclination or ability to enforce.
  • We want to start a campaign to educate Washtenaw County residents. Most of them have no idea their county hosts a landfill is horribly mismanaged and hurting families.
  • We want to test the water of residents and schools near the landfill.
  • We want to launch programs to reduce solid waste.
The Conservancy Initiative, also known as Stop Arbor Hills, has no employees. We are a volunteer-run organization. We get no grants. We completely rely on you, our generous supporters.
Thank you for considering us as you plan your year-end giving.

Advanced Disposal’s stinkiest day yet

Advanced Disposal’s Arbor Hills Landfill received 114 odor complaints on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018 — its worst day yet. Many residents of Salem, Northville, Novi and Plymouth reported odors for the first time.

Residents use The Odor Report, a web-based system, to submit odor complaints.

Some of the odor descriptions:

“Disgusting putrid offensive stink”

“Horrible landfill gas smell long after the dump was closed for the day.”

“The odor was a sulfuric stench I could smell it inside my home. When I opened my dryer to get my laundry out I just about threw up it was so disgusting. Every Thanksgiving it begins to smell as I prepare for our family to come visit. I am not sure why they can’t run their business in a professional manner surely not being a good neighbor to us. I never have any problems with the gas stations or other businesses in the area.”

“Really really bad smell smell like someone pooping (in) my front yard.”

“Horrible garbage landfill smell permeated into my garage upon opening the garage door it hit me in the face a pungent smell. I thought colder air would cut down the landfill gas smell”

“It smells sooo bad u can t breathe outside. It’s horrible in my garage into laundry rm. Plz help us live a normal life. This is inhuman. Thank you. ”

The Conservancy Initiative was formed three years ago to combat the proposed expansion and many environmental issues related to Arbor Hills Landfill in Salem Twp. Most of the residents who have been hurt by this massive landfill live in Wayne County while the landfill itself sits in Washtenaw County, a cash cow for its hosts – Salem Twp. and Washtenaw County.

Only 10 percent of the waste at Arbor Hills Landfill actually comes from Washtenaw County residents, according to data provided by Washtenaw County.

Arbor Hills Landfill is already one of the largest landfills in the nation yet Advanced Disposal Services wants to expand. The landfill is flanked by two elementary schools, a nature preserve and hundreds of homes.

Want to help?
  • Donate to The Conservancy Initiative
  • Contact your elected officials to determine what they’re doing to remedy this issue
  • Contact Larry Bean, supervisor of the Waste Management and Radiological Protection Division of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. 517-416-4375 or
  • Contact Salem Twp. Supervisor Gary Whittaker. The landfill subsidizes the township and its residents’ taxes. As owner of Three Cedars Farm, Whittaker benefits from this arrangement
  • Attend meetings in Northville Twp. and Salem Twp.
  • Contact Salem Twp. state Rep. Donna Lasinski at (517) 373-0828 or

See you tonight!

After submitting over 1,400 odor complaints this year, Northville and Salem township residents are sick of the air pollution from Washtenaw County’s Arbor Hills Landfill in Salem Twp. Many of these upset residents will be voicing their concerns at tonight’s Northville Twp. Board of Trustees meeting at 7.

Meeting details

The odor emanating from Advanced Disposal’s operation at 6 Mile and Napier roads has been an ongoing issue for three years. Managers of Advanced Disposal should be in attendance so residents will have the opportunity to confront them directly.

Questions? Contact

Mich. waste management legislation update

Republican state Rep. Rob VerHeulen introduced a bill to amend Michigan’s Natural Resources & Environmental Protection Act.

On Nov. 7, 2018, House Bill 6483 was introduced and referred to the House Natural Resources Committee.  The bill description reads: “Environmental protection; solid waste; management of waste materials; establish, provide regulatory oversight of composting, and establish funding for programs. ”

This is just the start of the legislative process.

Most of Michigan’s environmental acts were consolidated into the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994, PA 451, as amended (Act 451). Act 451 is organized into sections called “Parts.”

The Conservancy Initiative works primarily with the Air Quality and Waste Management divisions of the MDEQ as we attempt to reduce and correct issues with pollution from Arbor Hills Landfill in Salem Twp., Washtenaw County.

The Office of Regulatory Reinvention maintains the Rules promulgated under Michigan statutes. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality administered rules organized by MDEQ divisions are on the Michigan Environmental Rules page.

Questions or concerns?
Contact Liz Browne, the Special Projects Administrator of the Waste Management & Radiological Protection division of the MDEQ.
517-284-6552  |

Related links

Republic fined $406,000

Under a consent agreement and final order with the EPA, the former owner and operator of Arbor Hills Landfill’s gas collection and control system must pay a fine of $406,000 for failing to comply with the Clean Air Act.

View the consent agreement & final order

Until Feb. 2, 2017 BFI Waste Systems of North America  owned and operated the gas collection and control system at Arbor Hills Landfill. Republic Services is BFI’s parent company. BFI waived its right to a hearing but has not admitted any wrongdoing.

Alleged violations

1. Failure to install an active collection system that could withstand overburden, address water in the Landfill, and prevent gas into the air as required at 40CF,R. § 60.759(b)(lH2). 40 C.F,R. § 63. I 955, and its ROP (renewable operating permit).

2. Failure to address off-site landfill gas migration and extend the active collection system of the Landfill to comply with gas migration standards as required at 40 C.F.R. §60.759.(b)(l), 40 C.F.R. § 63.1955 and its ROP.

3. Failure to submit timely ACT (alternative compliance timeline) requests as required at 40 C.F.R. § 60.755(a)(3)&(5), 40 C.F.R. § 63.1955, and its ROP.

4. Failure to perform a timely performance test for two enclosed flares as required by the Landfill ROP.

5. Failure to operate the flares during turbine outages and maintain good air pollution control practices as required in 40 C.F.R. § 60.ll(d) and 40 C.F.R. § 63.6(e)(l)(i).

6. Failure to collect gas at a sufficient extraction rate as required in 40 C.F.R. § 60.752(b)(2)(ii)(A)(3), 40 C.F.R. § 63.1955, and its ROP.

Factual allegations & alleged violations

BFI formerly owned and operated the GCCS (gas collection and control system) at the Arbor Hills Landfill (the Landfill) located at 10690 West Six Mile Road, Northville, Michigan.

BFI retained ownership of the GCCS at the Landfill in a Purchase Agreement dated March 8, 2000 and operated the GCCS, including over 300 gas collection wells, two enclosed flares, and one utility flare. Subsequently, as of February 2, 2017, BFI transferred ownership and control. of the GCCS to Advanced Disposal, and as a result is no longer an owner or operator of the affected facility.

On September 29,  2016, EPA issued three Findings of Violation (FOVs) to BFI, Advanced Disposal, and Arbor Hills Energy. The FOV issued to BFI alleged that it violated the Landfill NSPS (new source performance standards), the Landfills NESHAP (National Emission
Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for municipal solid waste Landfills) , the NSPS General Provisions. the NESHAP Provisions, and the ROP (renewable operating permit).

On November 14, 2016, representatives of Advanced Disposal, BFI, Arbor Hills Energy, and EPA discussed the September 29, 2016 FOVs. The parties have also had subsequent discussions and communications regarding this matter.


Violation response

Advanced Disposal Services denies responsibility for odors once again in its response to the Aug. 31, 2018 violation notice issued by the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality.

Read the response

The MDEQ issued the violation notice on Aug. 31, 2018 for odors detected by MDEQ staff on Aug. 23.  The company the dump hired to monitor odors, RK & Associates, did not detect significant odors on Aug. 23.

Advanced Disposal claims they have done more than enough to remedy odors.

The response says: “The data illustrates that ADS has corrected the original source of the odor complaints — deficiencies in the infrastructure of the landfill gas collection and control system. This has left incidental odors from waste disposal operations and composting as the remaining potential sources for any detectable odors. In addition to the improvement in landfill gas collection efficiency, Arbor Hills Landfill has also aggressively implemented measures to mitigate odors associated with waste disposal operations as well as its compost operation.”

Advanced also questioned the MDEQ’s standards.

“Rule 901, in turn, generally prohibits the emission of an air contaminant in quantities that cause, among other things, an”unreasonable interference with the comfortable enjoyment of life and property.” This standard essentially restates the common law definition of “nuisance” and, therefore, must be considered in light of Michigan case law elucidating that concept. A nuisance is a non-trespassory invasion of another’s interest in the private use and enjoyment of land. See Adkins v. Thomas Solvent Co., 440 Mich. 293, 302 (1992). A defendant is not subject to liability in nuisance
unless the plaintiff proves each of the following elements:
1. the other has property rights and privileges in respect to the use or enjoyment interfered with;
2. the invasion results insignificant harm;
3. the actor’s conduct is the legal cause of the invasion; and
4. the invasion is either (i) intentional and unreasonable, or (ii) unintentional and otherwise actionable under the rules governing liability for negligent, reckless, or ultrahazardous conduct.

“To properly establish a Rule 901 violation, there must be showing not only of ‘significant harm’ resulting from the odor but also a showing that ADS acted unreasonably in its operation of the landfill. Further, under Michigan common law, an actionable nuisance exists only to the extent that defendant’s conduct was “unreasonable” in light of apublic-policy assessment of the conduct’s overall value to society. See Adams v. Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Co., 237 Mich. App. 51, 67 (1999). Accordingly, any intrusion of odors into residential areas must be balanced against the degree to which the Arbor Hills landfill is socially valuable.”


Arbor Hills Landfill gets yet another violation

Arbor Hills Landfill was issued a major violation on Aug. 31, 2018 for failing to control odors. This is the second citation for violating federal environmental laws this year.

Read the violation

The Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality conducted an investigation on Aug. 23, 2018 after receiving odor complaints. The complaints started at 7 a.m. and continued until after 10 p.m. The 30 odor descriptions varied from rubber burning to raw sewage to rotten eggs to pungent trash.

Our sources say the nasty odors likely resulted from the 200 tons of Detroit sewage sludge that Arbor Hills Landfill accepted shortly before this incident.

The Air Quality Division staff detected “a distinct and definite objectionable landfill garbage odor in the residential area on the south side of Napier Road downwind of the facility,” according to the violation notice.

Through the time of their inspection on Aug. 23, MDEQ had received nearly 900 odor complaints regarding Arbor Hills Landfill in 2018, according to the violation notice.

Stop Arbor Hills launched The Odor Report earlier this year to track and report nuisance odors. The number of odor reporters and reports increased dramatically with the single system and process. Arbor Hills Landfill received 522 odor complaints in 2016 and 280 in 2017. As of Sept. 17, more than 1,000 odor complaints have been submitted this year.

“In response to complaints, DEQ staff has conducted numerous on-site inspections and complaint investigations in the immediate area,” says the violation notice. “This recent observation of landfill garbage odors in violation of Rule 901 and Rule 433(1)(c), indicates additional measures are needed to reduce odors from the landfill.”

The dump’s owner, Advanced Disposal Services (ADS), must send a response to this violation notice by Sept. 24, 2018. The response is supposed to include steps to fix ongoing odor issues. The last time the dump received a 901 violation, on Feb. 6, 2018, they denied responsibility and blamed developers in lieu of providing a comprehensive remediation plan.

Feb. 6 violation  |  Violation response

Odor consultant RK & Associates is still conducting odor evaluations. Read odor evaluations

Advanced Disposal Services claims it has spent $8 million improving its gas collection system but the company has not shown  documentation confirming this. Read the gas collection system construction update from Advanced Disposal Services.

Even after all of the violations and 1,000+ odor complaints in 2018 alone, the operators of Arbor Hills Landfill still maintain they are going to expand.

The MDEQ has published an action summary from May-Aug. 2018. Read the summary


Materials Management legislation update

See the update below from Northville Twp. Supervisor Bob Nix regarding the status of Michigan legislation as a result of the Solid Waste and Sustainability Advisory Panel (SWSAP).

Materials management legislation update

Materials Management Plan legislation, 6th draft. See page 165-166 for text regarding adjacent communities. Do you have thoughts or ideas regarding this legislation? Contact us at

Who to contact
  • Larry Bean, MDEQ –
  • Scott Miller, MDEQ –
  • Kenneth Ruffatto, EPA lead –
  • Sen. Patrick Colbeck, –
  • Rep. Jeff Noble –
  • Salem Twp. Supervisor Gary Whittaker –
  • Northville Twp. Supervisor Bob Nix –

Related links

Advanced Disposal harassing residents again

Message from Northville resident intimidated by Advanced Disposal employees

Stop Arbor Hills received the message above on Aug. 21, 2018. Advanced Disposal Services has a long history of harassing and intimidating residents who complain around their landfills and composting operations. Advanced Disposal employees at Arbor Hills Landfill in Washtenaw County have been visiting and harassing residents for over 2 years now. They come calling late at night and throughout the day.

Many residents have explained to us how intimidated, attacked, and harassed they felt. Sadly, these tactics are effective. They visited a young Northville mom with small children while her husband was away. She said she will never report another odor out of fear of their return. Please share your story with us if the dump people have come to your home and made you uncomfortable. Email us at

As for the question above regarding the cancellation of recess at Ridge Wood Elementary in Northville, this is a semantic game. The school cuts recess short and sometimes they have the students stay inside but they don’t cancel recess outright that we’re aware of. Children are denied the ability to play outside and they’re denied the ventilation system on bad odor days. These issues are outlined in the school board’s resolution they signed on Aug. 16, 2016. Read the resolution

Arbor Hills compost too smelly for Detroit

Quote taken from NPR article about Detroit composting sent to Arbor Hills in Salem Twp., Washtenaw County

Compost is too smelly for the city of Detroit so they send it to Arbor Hills Landfill in Salem Township, Washtenaw County. Children at the two schools flanking the composting facility get to suck on the ammonium nitrate fumes as do residents in the hundreds of homes around the dirty dump and its smelly compost operation.

NPR published a story about Detroit’s yard waste on Aug. 13, 2018. CurisiD: Where does Detroit’s yard waste go?

So far this year, Detroit has sent 6,300 tons of yard waste to Advanced Disposal’s Salem Township composting site on the north side of 6 Mile Road. Plymouth, Salem and Northville residents have submitted over 1,000 odor complaints this year as of Aug. 14, 2018.

See maps below to see just how close the two elementary schools are to the smelly compost operation.

Salem Elementary in Washtenaw County is 1 mile west of Arbor Hills Landfill’s compost operation that’s too smelly for Detroit

Ridge Wood Elementary in Wayne County is nearly 1 mile east of Arbor Hills Landfill’s smelly compost operation in Washtenaw County

Gas system in the news

The Northville Record highlighted some of the issues with the gas collection system at Arbor Hills Landfill. Once again, the dump fails to take responsibility for its actions. Our president commented on Advanced Disposal’s expansion plans but those statements didn’t make it into the article.

Arbor Hills landfill owner tries to eliminate nasty odors
Northville Record, Aug. 10, 2018

The gas collection system upgrades are in response to our hard work that led to many Clean Air Act violations and an EPA consent order. The consent order details the work the dump must do to remediate  noxious gas odors.

Washtenaw County’s dump neglected the gas system for years, which contributed to the massive pollution situation that forces families inside when they should be out enjoying their yards, community parks and school play grounds.

Thanks to everyone who has helped us #stopthedump!

Our mission is to improve the environment by working with neighbors, government entities, area businesses and community leaders to create a clean and safe place to live and work.