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DEQ Leverages Critical Surcharge Funding to Regulate Landfills

Front-end loader moving trash on a landfill.March 14, 2019

Keeping trash in check is no easy feat, but that is exactly what the Department of Environmental Quality's Solid Waste Program does for the state. The program provides oversight of the 50 million cubic yards of trash that is disposed of in Michigan each year. To put that in perspective, 50 million cubic yards is equivalent to garbage piled about 48 feet high over one square mile. In a recently released report, the DEQ highlighted the importance of ongoing funding for the state's Solid Waste Program and the important role it plays in protecting our people and natural resources. The report was prepared for legislators, who will have the opportunity to reauthorize the program's funding in the coming months.

Many critical processes are required to provide oversight of the construction and operation of solid waste landfills in Michigan.  Improperly constructed and operated solid waste landfills can result in a number of problems, including excessive odors, air pollution, groundwater contamination, and challenges with rodents, mosquitos, and other nuisance species. Through the review process for landfill permit applications, the program ensures that the landfill's design will prevent the release of contaminants. Ongoing inspections during and after construction are utilized to ensure that the project proceeds according to approved plans.

In 2018, 655 compliance inspections were conducted and program staff responded to 123 complaints. Routine visits to each landfill is important to verify that waste delivered to the landfill is being properly managed in accordance with Michigan laws. Evaluation of monitoring data is ongoing to identify any contaminant leaks that could impact the area's groundwater.

To fund the program, roughly $6 million is collected each year through a solid waste surcharge on waste disposed at landfills. The surcharge is $0.12 per cubic yard, which is one of the lowest rates in the nation. A typical household throws away about 3 cubic yards of waste per year, so it costs most households about $0.36 a year to pay for the state's Solid Waste Program. A quarter of this funding is paid by out-of-state customers who dispose of their waste in Michigan landfills. 

This year, the surcharge will be up for reauthorization by the state legislature.  Adequate funding is essential to fulfilling the DEQ's role of protecting the health of Michigan's communities and natural resources.

To learn more details about the important work that occurs as a result of this funding, you can read the Report on Activities Funded by the Staff Account of the Solid Waste Management Fund and find additional details on the DEQ's Solid Waste web site.


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