On the surface, Advanced Disposal Services’ latest violation response paints a picture of monumental incompetence at least, deliberate foot-dragging on compliance at worst.
Arbor Hills Landfill has received three violations from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality already in 2019 — and there are more forthcoming.
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.
It’s unclear why Arbor Hills Landfill ordered new blowers from Lone Star Blowers, Inc. It looks as if they were unsuitable from the start.
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.”
Overall, the picture being painted here is of a company that is trying to do the minimum necessary to get by instead of approaching the problem comprehensively. The reason, of course, boils down to money. As long as sanctions including fines are less than what it would take to completely redesign the landfill gas collection system, they will put up with MDEQ and community objections. They likely used the same calculus in deciding to use diesel as the start-up fuel.
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.