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

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