Thursday, September 16, 2021

Landfill must pay $750,000 in court settlement

Last week, Arbor Hills Energy settled with the State of Michigan and the Department of Justice agreeing to significantly reduce the odor causing sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions at the Salem Township landfill gas-to-energy facility. SO2 is a dangerous, foul-smelling pollutant that can cause substantial harm to human health and air quality which has prompted complaints from residents in neighboring Northville Township since 2015. The decision comes almost a year after the suit was initially filed in October 2020 by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), following alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and state laws.

The company also agreed to pay two $375,000 fines - one to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and another to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

“We are happy these matters are being resolved,” said Northville Township Supervisor Mark J. Abbo. “Our expectation is a clean, healthy environment for our residents and this is a start.”

By March 2023, Arbor Hills Energy, under the settlement, will either construct a renewable natural gas facility that converts landfill gas into pipeline-quality natural gas or install a sulfur treatment system that achieves a 64 percent reduction in SO2 emissions. Either pathway will bring Arbor Hills into compliance with the Clean Air Act and mitigate past excess SO2 emissions, the EPA statement stated.. 

“This settlement makes important progress in improving air quality near the AHE Facility,” said Nessel. “My office is also addressing air pollution from the adjacent landfill in the case I filed on behalf of Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy in 2020 against the landfill owner. Combined, when completed, this work will dramatically improve the impact both facilities have had on the surrounding communities.”

Residents of Northville Township, which is located across the county line from the Arbor Hills Landfill, have been vocal in their complaints about the foul odors emanating from the facility.

Residents have complained at township board meetings and demanded action regarding the noxious odors.

The situation led to the installation of an air quality monitoring station at Ridge Wood School in an effort to protect students and faculty there from potential health hazards due to the chemical composition of the air. 

“This action is a long time in the making,” Abbo said. “We are grateful to the Justice Department, the EPA and the state of Michigan for the progress made in helping our great community.”

Township officials are in separate ongoing discussions with Arbor Hills regarding improving future operations. 

“Today, we celebrate a monumental win for both our community and the great state of Michigan,” said Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth). “This settlement is the culmination of years of community advocacy, grassroots organization and quick responsiveness from Sen. Dayna Polehanki and myself. I would like to thank AG Nessel, EGLE, state Sen. Polehanki, Northville residents, the parents of Ridge Wood students and The Conservancy Initiative for coming together and making this settlement a reality. Thanks to their hard work and commitment to holding corporate polluters accountable, we've managed to improve the quality of life and air for those living in close proximity to the landfill,” Kolezar stated.

His sentiments were echoed by Polehanki (D-Livonia).

“The health and safety of our residents is of the utmost importance to me, which is why, after taking office in 2018, I helped add air quality monitoring to the Arbor Hills Consent Agreement for its work near Ridgewood Elementary, and now, joined forces with Rep. Matt Koleszar and Attorney General Dana Nessel to ensure justice for our residents in this matter,” Polehanki said in a prepared statement.

“While I'm pleased to see this settlement agreement and relieved for the residents who worked so hard to bring this issue to light, now is not the time for us to take our foot off the gas. I will continue work with my fellow state officials on amending the laws that allowed repeat violators, like Arbor Hills, from expanding their physical footprint or continue violating environmental laws.” 

 “This agreement better protects nearby residents and the region's air quality and is a good example of working with our partners to ensure environmental compliance and emissions reductions,” said Director Liesl Clark of  (EGLE).

“Combined, when completed, this work will dramatically improve the impact both facilities have had on the surrounding communities.”

The current settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. It will be available for viewing at