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DEQ to rethink groundwater permit

June 22, 2012
Steve Schulwitz - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

ATLANTA - Several months ago the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality told the Montmorency-Oscoda-Solid Waste Authority there was little chance the state would grant the landfill's request for a groundwater drainage permit, which would allow the landfill to dispose of its leachate via flowing water underground.

Now the department is willing to re-examine the matter, as long as the landfill board starts from scratch and submits a new application with adjustments made, ensuring the water is as pure as possible before it reaches the surface water nearby. The DEQ said if the landfill were to utilize reverse osmosis in the procedure, it would review the request again.

Administrator Sandy Cunningham said if the cleaning method is used, the new application will request the landfill be able to release the leachate year-round, instead of the four months it had committed to in the previous filing. She said it is better to submit a new application instead of amending the original because of the amount of adjustments made to it already.

"The original application we submitted has had so many changes and additions that the packages are getting complicated," Cunningham said. "It would be nice if we could just recopy most of the data, change the dates, do a new basis of design, include the reverse osmosis technology, and go from there. Then we would expect all the documentation and communications in a timely fashion going back and forth."

Cunningham said the new treatment procedure would be enough to convince the DEQ the leachate being drained would be well below the benchmarks put in place and the permit would be granted.

"All of the constituents and concerns will be treated with the reverse osmosis. Everything that we have had concerns with," she said. "It will be a non-issue before it reaches the surface water."

The cost to have the equipment installed to carry out the procedure is estimated to be about $300,000 and another $100,000 annually for testing and maintenance. The savings from not having to have the leachate hauled away by truck is thought to be about 800,000 a year annually. Alpena Commissioner Lyle VanWormer said getting the permit would be a bonus, but as things stand, the landfill has made great strides in how it utilizes the lagoon and evaporation to cut down on the amount of leachate that needs to be hauled.

"They had pretty much flat told us before they weren't going to give us a permit before because of the way we had applied for it," VanWormer said. "But if we can continue to get the amount of evaporation down, which has been better than what it was before, I think we will be OK either way. We're on the right track and saving money now. This month's bills for hauling the leachate out are the lowest we have had since I have been on the landfill board, so we're doing OK."

In other business:

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 358-5689.



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