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AG Nessel, EGLE Reach Settlement with Arbor Hills Landfill

NORTHVILLE TWP. - Following more than a year of negotiations, Michigan Attorney General Nessel and Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) Director Liesl Clark are announcing a successful settlement agreement with the owner and operator of the Arbor Hills Landfill in Salem Township. The settlement includes requirements to resolve the issues at the landfill, as well as environmentally beneficial projects and fines that amount to more than $2.3 million. 

In Oct. 2020, Nessel filed suit on behalf of EGLE due to the landfill failing to comply with state and federal regulations and creating a public nuisance. The action sought to require Arbor Hills Landfill, Inc. to abate the nuisance and operate its landfill in compliance with state and federal laws, alleging that the company failed to install an adequate collection and control system to capture gas generated from the landfill and failed to address leachate issues. 

"This settlement helps to address the years of health and safety concerns community members felt were going ignored," Nessel said. "I appreciate the collaborative work done between my office and EGLE to reach this point.  This is a comprehensive agreement with the landfill's new ownership to remedy outstanding issues for those who live and work in the surrounding area." 

"This settlement will help 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," Clark said. 

Specifically, Arbor Hills will:  

  • operate a network of monitors along the landfill perimeter to detect hydrogen sulfide and methane before they reach the neighboring subdivisions and cause a nuisance;  
  • quickly identify the source of emissions and reduce the concentrations if those gases are detected above thresholds that can cause a nuisance; 
  • retain a certified professional engineering firm to evaluate the landfill grade and cover quarterly and implement actions to minimize liquid infiltration; 
  • inspect the gas wells twice a month, and install and repair pumps based on a quarterly review performed by another engineering firm to ensure the wells are not flooded and are working properly; and 
  • perform monthly measurements of the landfill surface (rather than the quarterly monitoring required by the Clean Air Act and Michigan's Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act) to detect gas emissions using drones and handheld devices. 

The perimeter emissions monitoring network will be operated in conjunction with meteorological equipment and a sophisticated software system that continuously measures perimeter concentrations, notifies Arbor Hills of any exceedances immediately, and identifies where the emissions causing the exceedances are coming from. This aspect of the settlement agreement requires Arbor Hills to operate all the equipment and software for ten years, which incurs a cost of roughly $800,000.   

Another settlement term requires Arbor Hills to construct and operate, as a free service to users for ten years, a facility to collect household hazardous waste (which includes paints, solvents, automotive fluids, and fluorescent bulbs) so it is not disposed in a landfill. Arbor Hills is also required to plant a vegetative buffer of spruce trees to reduce the transport of particulate matter and odors from the landfill and its adjoining composting facility.   

The hazardous waste collection program and tree planting will cost another roughly $1.15 million. Additionally, the settlement requires Arbor Hills to pay a civil fine a $355,109. 

A copy of the settlement agreement is now available on the Department of Attorney General website

Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth) and Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia), whose districts include the Arbor Hills Landfill, have heard from residents about the site. They joined AG Nessel and Director Clark during a press conference Thursday afternoon. 

"This settlement has been a long time coming for our residents," Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia) said. "I'm grateful to Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy for hearing us, delivering a significant civil fine, and requiring a number of safety and compliance measures for our residents. In addition to the previously settled lawsuit with the Department of Justice and the State of Michigan, I will continue to ensure Arbor Hills follows through with what has been ordered of them, as well as ensuring nearby residents have greater peace of mind." 

"Today is a major victory for the residents of Northville Township," Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth) said. "The advocacy of Northville families is finally paying off and I am so proud to have worked with them to see Arbor Hills Landfill held accountable." 

EGLE began receiving complaints in January 2016 from nearby residents about odor coming from the landfill, which is located at 10690 West Six Mile Road 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 and allowed to build up.