By ANTHONY STONE
Sunday Times Newspapers
RIVERVIEW — The Wayne County Facility Inclusion Committee unanimously voted against the expansion of the Riverview Land Preserve Nov. 15.
The meeting — held at Arnaldo’s Banquet Center — was to consider the revised application from the city for the proposed expansion of its municipal solid waste landfill at 20863 Grange Road.
Residents of Riverview and nearby cities nearly filled the room to capacity. Others attended the meeting via Zoom.
Riverview Land Preserve Manager Jeff Dobek spoke about why the expansion makes sense.
The new 45 acres would provide 15 additional years of disposal capacity. Dobeck said RLP provides $2 million to $3 million dollars annually to the city that supports fire, police, and other city services. That amounts to 25 percent of the city’s annual budget.
RLP provides local businesses a solution for construction materials and projects. Dobeck said RLP has “odor-free operations,” which caused the crowd to burst out in laughter.
During the pro-expansion arguments, RLP presented a PowerPoint presentation that cited a survey done in April. Out of 2,715 responses, 1,747 Riverview residents were for the expansion, and 968 were against it.
Mayor Andrew Swift gave his reasons for the expansion. He listed the several surrounding city mayors and city supervisors that also are for the expansion.
Swift said Riverview residents and neighboring communities benefit financially by having a “cost-effective solution” to solid waste in Riverview.
Swift noted the improvements to the landfill since the hiring of Dobeck. For example, sophisticated odor controls, new litter fencing to avoid excess debris, purchase of equipment to clean trash on adjacent roads, and investment in gas control infrastructure.
Swift said RLP is leading the state in testing for PFAS, harmful chemicals that seep into the soil, groundwater, and air from the landfill.
“We would love to partner with Wayne County Parks and Recreation and transform that facility to a premier Wayne County Park that we share with the entire region,” Swift said.
The comment triggered moans, groans, and laughter from the crowd that FIC Chairperson Elmeka Steele.
City Councilmembers Chuck Norton and Rita Gunaga gave their approval to the committee.
“The more I studied, the more I learned, the more I realized my opinion was going to have to change,” Norton said. “From absolutely not, to the city of Riverview is screwed without this expansion.”
“Every surrounding community is going to be financially impacted,” Gunaga said.
Gibraltar Mayor Scott Denison and Grosse Ile Township Supervisor Jim Budny spoke in favor of the expansion, after which, the public voiced their opinion.
Out of about two hours of public comments, one person was for the expansion, one was neutral, and the rest opposed.
Anti-expansion arguments boiled down to health, traffic and quality of life concerns.
Residents asked the FIC where else there is a landfill in residential and densely populated areas.
One Riverview resident pointed to Department of Health and Environmental Control estimates of landfills averaging 30 to 50 years, which RLP already has exceeded. Also, they mentioned that RLP wets down parts of the landfill where trucks drive, but after 10 minutes, the dust begins to fly again.
“We talked about the relocation of the entrance, but relocating the entrance only transfers the nuisance, the noise and the smells, and the misery from one neighborhood to another,” the resident said.
Others said the smell is so bad at home that they won’t open their windows.
A Trenton resident said he has to eradicate mice every other year because of the landfill. He also talked of the extreme amount of dust that covers his car shortly after he washes his car.
Several residents alluded to the severe congestion and crashes at the intersection of King and Grange roads, where the entrance to the landfill is.
James Hayes of Riverview cited health concerns documented by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. EGLE said Riverview is exposed to airborne toxic cancer-causing agents, and the city is in the 70 to 80 percentile for respiratory hazards. Also, Riverview is in the 80 to 90 percentile for “heart issues.” The top percentage in this instance is negative, as opposed to positive.
“I assumed there was a shelf life to the landfill,” Riverview resident John Teske said. “I never assumed a city council would approve an expansion that’s currently a half mile to within a few hundred feet to my backyard. I think that’s immoral.”
Many residents talked about the potential for a decrease in property values.
“If the city of Detroit can come out of bankruptcy and revitalize, certainly it seems like this council and mayor have put all their eggs in one basket,” said Juan Cartagena of Riverview. “We need to be looking at some type of redevelopment.”
One Trenton resident said his city’s recycling program had reduced its waste by almost half. He said RLP should leave the landfill as is and consider a recycling program.
Tracy Loger of Riverview said the city would have plenty of time to implement funding strategies before the landfill reaches capacity.
Larry Sutherland of Riverview suggested supplementing the police budget by placing an officer near Coachwood and Hamilton streets and writing tickets.
“They’ve had plenty of years to come up with alternatives to run the city,” a Riverview resident said.
“There’s quite a bit that hasn’t changed about the proposal since last year’s hearing, and that should tell you something,” state Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-1st District) said.
Brownstown Township and Trenton have passed resolutions in opposition.
The FIC said it could recommend updates to another application by the city and provide a list of concerns that need to be addressed.
“The reality is that there are still issues that are unresolved,” Steele said.
Riverview is allowed to submit another application to the FIC for expansion.