The myths, concerns and complaints listed below are untrue items mentioned by the public at the recent Wayne County Facility Inclusion Committee (FIC) hearing regarding the Riverview Land Preserve (RLP). It is important to correct these untrue statements and to take an opportunity to clarify and address the concerns and complaints that were mentioned by the public at the FIC hearing.
MYTH: Health is at risk if you live near a landfill.
TRUTH: Health is NOT at risk if you live near a well operated landfill that complies with governmental regulations such as RLP. See Health Effects of Residence Near Hazardous Waste Landfill Sites: A Review of Epidemiologic Literature (M. Vrijheid, Environmental Health Perspectives Vol 108, March 2000). The author reviewed 66 separate studies of landfill impacts on residents.
There is no conclusive evidence that landfills negatively impact health. There have been marginal increases of incident reports in communities near landfills but these were not correlated to emissions from the sites. Some sites with known chemical migration have not been able to quantify the level of exposure in the human population. At sites where clusters of higher incidence were reported, the findings are still not directly linking the clusters to the landfill emissions due to other complicating factors.
Studies that did look at blood and urine samples found NO increase in mercury, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), or industrial products or chemicals (polychlorinated biphenyls/PCBs).
The RLP has over 20 years of data showing clean groundwater, surface water, and soil monitoring results.
MYTH: Landfill gas is a constant threat of explosion or health injury.
TRUTH: Riverview’s landfill gas poses no threat of explosion or health injury. Landfill gas is composed of 50% methane, 35% carbon dioxide, and trace amounts of other products such as nitrogen, hydrogen sulfide, and organic compounds. Unless methane is concentrated the gas will not explode. Nor have there been any explosions in more than 50 years of operation.
MYTH: The landfill stinks.
TRUTH: Hydrogen sulfide (“H2S”) is what can be smelled and is present in landfill gas. A very tiny amount of landfill gas can give the impression that there is a big stink, because H2S is such a powerful odor.
MYTH: The dust coming off the landfill is toxic.
TRUTH: The dust coming off the landfill is not toxic. It’s really just dust. Dust comes from the haul road and in some cases, the dirt that is placed on the trash to suppress the smell. The materials used for road construction are natural soils and are uncontaminated. The daily cover materials are tested and must be approved as daily cover materials, and have to meet certain standards for chemical components, below environmental cleanup standard limitations.
MYTH: The equipment is operating, banging, and beeping at early morning hours contrary to law.
TRUTH: The earliest the landfill opens for business is 6:30 a.m. Our operators warm up their equipment (especially in the winter months) from 6-6:30 a.m. to prepare for the early customers who are usually coming from residential routes nearby. The backup alarms are a requirement by the safety offices (MiOSHA, OSHA, etc.). These hours of operation are in full compliance with the local Ordinances (Charter Code of Ordinances City of Riverview, Michigan, Sec 38-162).
MYTH: The landfill is just a money grab with no concern for the environment or people.
TRUTH: Government regulators at the local, state, and federal level that regulate RLP don’t see it that way. They impose a multitude of environmental protections, which also protect the workers and the local citizens. RLP closely follows all environmental standard practices for landfill operation. The liners under the land preserve protect soil and ground water, and the landfill gas collection system extracts greenhouse gases (methane and CO2) to protect the air. RLP teams continuously test soil, water and air to identify any breaches in the control systems that could negatively impact the environment. RLP has perimeter monitoring systems in place to identify the first signs of off-site impacts, and there are programs in place to respond to any findings in those perimeter systems. RLP is continually investing to expand systems and find smarter, safer ways to handle the trash that comes to the landfill.
MYTH: RLP is just a glorified DUMP.
TRUTH: Nonsense. Dumps are illegal and very different from the modern regulated landfill. Dumps were haphazard, unregulated, and dangerous. There were no environmental protections in place at the dumps of the early 1900s and through the 1960s. Starting with the creation of the EPA (1970), and RCRA (1976) regulations have been implemented to control “dumping” and create accountable, controlled landfills where trash can be managed responsibly. The current landfill requirements are very stringent and compliance with those requirements is subject to review by several regulatory agencies.
MYTH: Riverview has a huge amount of money in the landfill account, and they won’t use it instead of this expansion.
TRUTH: The law requires a cash reserve to be held by the City. These funds are restricted and are set aside for the closure and long-term post-closure maintenance of the landfill as required by Michigan law. These restricted funds can only be used for these projects and cannot be used for landfill or city operations. During the post-closure time, the RLP will no longer be generating revenue (i.e., no incoming trash), but will still have expenses to maintain and repair the cover systems, leachate collection and treatment systems, landfill gas collection and treatment systems, and provide sampling and testing and reporting for soil, groundwater, and air. The City has been planning ahead and will use those funds to minimize the financial impact at the time of closure.
MYTH: The landfill creates TOXIC chemicals that impact the environment.
TRUTH: The landfill DOES NOT create TOXIC chemicals. RLP generates a watery substance called leachate. The leachate generated by the land preserve is unpleasant, smelly, and dirty, but it is not toxic. The leachate is tested every three months to determine the levels of different compounds, and none have returned as toxic levels. We are generally able to discharge the leachate directly to the sewer as an industrial wastewater, except for a carbon filtration system that filters about 50% of the leachate created.