Michigan landfill plans to inject waste under shrinking aquifer

COOPERSVILLE, MI – A national waste disposal company wants to inject liquid waste deep under a narrowing aquifer which is exploited for drinking water in western Michigan.

Republic Services is seeking approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to construct two injection wells at its Ottawa Farms landfill site along I-96 near Coopersville.

The injection wells would force the leachate 4,490 feet into the underground rock formations below the groundwater used for the local drinking water supply. The EPA has drafted permits and is public comment until January 27.

Republic Services is seeking Class 1 well permits, which would allow the injection of “non-hazardous” leachate – the liquid by-product of decaying waste – from the landfill located at 15550 68th Street, in the Township of Polkton, in the County of Ottawa.

The request must also be approved by the Michigan Department of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), which says it received the request in September and expects to hold a separate public review and possibly a meeting. in line jointly with the EPA “if it receives a public interest” in the proposal of the services of the Republic.

Injection wells can be controversial and sometimes face opposition from environmental groups who fear lax operators could contaminate groundwater.

The EPA requires that injection wells be operated at a certain pressure to prevent fluid from backing up the well casing, potentially contaminating groundwater at higher levels.

EPA recently fined Gaylord company Paxton Resources $ 73,000 for poor record keeping and poor pressure monitoring over a two-year period on several wells in northern Michigan.

According to the EPA, the lowest source of drinking water under Ottawa’s farms lies 470 underground in the Marshall Formation, a shrinking glacial aquifer that was the object of study due to increased salinity levels due to increased use and lack of surface water recharge.

Nick Assendelft, spokesperson for EGLE, said there are dozens of similar wells that are already pumping industrial and municipal waste underground into Michigan.

“Some of these wells have a commercial disposal designation and have handled landfill leachate for many years,” Assendelft said. “There has been more recent interest in siting these wells on landfills for direct leachate disposal.”

Assendelft said EGLE has issued two permits since 2018 for injecting leachate into landfills and is also currently considering a similar request from Republic Services to construct two leachate injection wells at its Carleton Farms landfill in County of Wayne, near New Boston.

EGLE is currently seeking EPA approval to assume the primary authority to regulate a similar type of injection well known as Class 2, which is primarily used for the disposal of brine wastewater from oil and gas extraction. There are approximately 1,250 such wells in Michigan.

The EPA says Ottawa County Landfill Inc., a subsidiary of Republic Services, created a bond fund of $ 129,500 to cover the costs of plugging and abandoning its wells one day.

Regulators allowed Republic Services to expand landfill space to 51 acres and mound height to 70 feet in 2017, by adding a 60 additional years of service life during installation. The landfill primarily takes waste from Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties.

Republic Services did not respond to a request for comment on its Ottawa Farms request.

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