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White Lake Landfill (Whitehall, Muskegon County)

EGLE Site Lead: Kent Walters, or 616-278-4350. Webpage last updated June 15, 2021.


White Lake Landfill (WLLF) is a closed Type II municipal landfill owned by Waste Management and located in Whitehall at 3278 Colby Road.  Historically, there has been groundwater impact due to landfill activities, with the main concern being boron.  A Remedial Action Plan was developed as a response to boron exceedances of Part 201 drinking water standards.  This site has five landfill cells.  Cells I-IV have clay liners, while Phase V is double-lined with modern technologies.  WLLF has been closed since 1999 and is conducting its 30-year, semi-annual post-closure monitoring and maintenance.  During the Phase V closure, WLLF used an engineered topsoil to cover the landfill cap, which consisted of native sands and a paper sludge compost material from Otsego, Michigan.  Recent testing indicates high PFAS concentrations can be released from the paper sludge wastes.  Seven toe drains drain storm water, which percolates through Phase V topsoil's and discharges to the ground surface next to the landfill.  The storm water is then absorbed through the ground surface into the groundwater.  Due to WLLF's use of PFAS impacted topsoil on Phase V and a historical release of leachate to the environment, a potential release of PFAS was of concern.  

A water well exists downgradient of the landfill but is not used for drinking water purposes.  The residence/farm is connected to city water as its drinking water source.  A potential ground-water/surface water (GSI) receptor exists approximately 2000' downgradient of the landfill.  The GSI receptor is a former celery field that is currently inundated.  Prior to 2017, the fields were used to produce celery.  Part of the fields were sold, and the dewatering pumps have been shut down.  The flooded fields are hydraulically connected to the White River.

Groundwater flows northwest toward the White River.  On-site surface water flows toward two retention basins on site.  Regional surface water flows northwest toward the White River.

White Lake Landfill PFOA+PFOS Detections Map

Recent Accomplishments

  • On November 17, 2020, WLLF received materials and began construction to capture stormwater runoff from the landfill cap to prevent high concentrations of PFAS from being discharged to the groundwater.
  • In November 2020, WLLF sampled nine onsite groundwater monitoring wells to further define PFAS in groundwater.
  • In November 2020, WLLF capped the landfill toe drains, preventing PFAS impacted water from discharging to the groundwater.  The toe drains were rerouted to discharge into the leachate collection system. 
  • In December 2020 through January 2021, WLLF completed 4 vertical aquifer profiles to better define PFAS impacts to the aquifer.  Vertical profiles near a toe drain discharge point and a profile downgradient of the site both showed PFAS impacts above criteria in the upper 10-20' of the aquifer.  The highest PFOA was 160 ppt collected from Vertical Aquifer Profile (VAP) 4, the highest PFOS was 320 ppt collected from VAP 3, the highest PFHxA was 11 ppt from VAP 4, the highest PFHxS was 7 ppt collected from VAP 3, the highest PFBS was 11 ppt collected from VAP 2D, PFNA was not detected. Two vertical profiles upgradient of the site had minimal PFAS detections all below water quality criteria.    
  • On March 3, 2021, WLLF submitted the sampling results from the November sampling event.  Nine onsite monitoring wells were sampled for PFAS, 6 locations were in exceedance of water quality standards.  The highest PFOS was 570 ppt collected at monitor well MW-8R, the highest PFOA was 100 ppt collected at monitor well MW-27, the highest PFHxA was 25 ppt collected from MW-36R, the highest PFHxS was 87 ppt collected from MW-8R, the highest PFBS was 6 ppt collected from monitor well MW-3S, PFNA was not detected. 

Next Steps

  • WLLF is working with the adjacent landowner to gain access permission to install additional temporary vertical aquifer profiles to better define PFAS downgradient of the landfill.

Residential Well Testing/Alternate Water Information

  • There are no residential drinking water receptors downgradient of WLLF.  A water well exists downgradient of the landfill but is not used for drinking water.

Upcoming Community Engagement

  • None scheduled at this time.

Sampling Results Summary

This table reflects data compared to Part 201 Criteria effective 8/3/2020 sampling: PFOS and PFOA Only

This table reflects data received after 8/3/2020. Data prior to 8/3/2020 is reflected in the timeline below. 

Type of Sample

Date Sampled (or Range)

Number of Sample Results Received

Number of Samples above Criteria

Groundwater Monitoring Wells

November 2020 29 11

* Residential well and groundwater monitoring well results are compared to EGLE Part 201 criteria for 7 PFAS compounds:  PFOS (16 ppt), PFOA (8 ppt), PFNA (6 ppt), PFHxS (51 ppt), PFHxA (400,000 ppt), PFBS (420 ppt), and HFPO-DA (370 ppt).

Sampling Notes

  • On August 3, 2020, new Part 201 Criteria went into effect.  Historical sampling data compared to Part 201 Criteria >70 is captured in the historical timeline below.
  • The Industrial Pre-Treatment Program (IPP) sampled the landfills leachate for PFAS.  Results indicated PFAS + PFOS at concentrations of 250-1,000 ppt. 
  • Toe drain samples 1 and 2 had exceedances of the proposed criteria of PFNA at 8.6 and 7.2 ppt respectively.

Historical Timeline

    • On October 16, 2019, Brown and Caldwell, representing Waste Management, collected groundwater and storm water samples.  Storm water samples percolate through PFAS impacted soils and are discharged to the ground surface.  No monitoring wells have been sampled downgradient of the locations to which the toe drains are discharging.
    • On November 20, 2019 WLLF sampled three additional groundwater monitoring wells based on the results of the first round of sampling.  Two of the groundwater monitoring wells were located near or downgradient of the discharging toe drains.
    • On December 23, 2019, EGLE staff received the results from the October sampling event and the highest PFOS + PFOA groundwater result was 112 ppt from monitoring well (MW) 3S.  
    • On January 9, 2020, EGLE staff met with WLLF to discuss the PFAS sampling results.  Next steps were discussed and the need to delineate PFAS impacted groundwater, and the need to prevent the active release of PFAS-impacted stormwater from the toe drains to the ground surface.   
    • On January 31, 2020, EGLE staff received the results from the November sampling event.  The two groundwater monitoring wells located near or downgradient from the discharging toe drains both exceed the Part 201 criteria of 70 ppt.
    • On April 6, 2020, EGLE received a letter from Waste Management, the owner and operator of White Lake Landfill, indicating a work plan to continue PFAS investigations will be provided by the end of April 2020.  Waste Management also informed EGLE they are not going to address the ongoing release of PFAS impacted water from landfill operations until after groundwater investigations have been completed.
    • On May 12, 2020, EGLE received a workplan from White Lake Landfill to further characterize PFAS impacts to groundwater from the landfill.
    • On May 15, 2020, EGLE sent White Lake Landfill a compliance communication letter informing them of violations for discharging PFAS to groundwater that need to be addressed.
    • On June 4, 2020, EGLE held a conference call with White Lake Landfill to discuss their decision to not address their PFAS discharge to groundwater and also to provide comments on the submitted workplan to further characterize PFAS impacts to groundwater. 
    • June 2020 - Present, WLLF and EGLE are working on an agreeable workplan to continue to investigate PFAS in groundwater.
    • On July 21, 2020, WLLF informed EGLE they would begin to take steps to capture water discharging from the toe drains and routing impacted water through the leachate collection system.

    Historical Sampling Chart: Data is reflective of criteria prior to August 3, 2020,  PFOS and PFOA Only

    This chart reflects data received prior to August 3, 2020.

    Type of Sample

    Date Sampled (or Range)

    Number of Samples

    Number of Results Received

    Number of Non-Detects  Number Between Non-detect and Standard*  Number Greater Than or Equal to Standard 


    November 2019 7 7 0 4 3
    Surface Water (Toe Drain) October 2019 3 3 0 0 3
     Cumulative   10 10 0 4 6

    *Groundwater results are compared to EGLE Part 201 Criteria of 70 ppt PFOS+PFOA.
    *Surface water samples are compared to Rule 57 non-drinking water values of 12 ppt for PFOS and 12,000 ppt for PFOA.
    *Storm Water Toe Drain results are compared to Part 201 Criteria of 70 ppt PFOS+PFOA.


    • On August 13, 2020, WLLF complete gamma ray logging of select monitoring wells in efforts to better understand subsurface geological conditions.

    • On October 21, 2020, EGLE reviewed and approved a PFAS workplan to sample additional existing groundwater monitoring wells and install 7 new vertical aquifer borings to define potential PFAS impacts upgradient and downgradient of the landfill.