May 26 06:11 PM

Goodland may take on MDEQ

Biosolids being sprayed on Goodland Twp. Farm. Township officials would like to see tougher controls over the dumping of biosolid waste on local farm fields and are drafting an ordinance for submission to MDEQ.

January 06, 2010
GOODLAND TWP. — Township officials say they want to be well prepared before going to battle with the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality over the dumping of biosolid waste on local farm fields.

About 25 concerned citizens attended a Dec. 22 meeting that included discussion of protocol and preparation regarding the draft of an ordinance and a request that the MDEQ intervene in further dumping of such materials.

In response to an earlier request dated Aug. 5, 2009, State Biosolids Coordinator James E. Johnson informed township officials that some of the language in the original ordinance needed to be changed.

Specifically, noted Johnson, the term "septage" would have to be replaced in the proposed ordinance by the word "biosolids."

Goodland Twp. Supervisor Ron Cischke said other matters could stand in the way of efforts to gain local control over dumping.

"We have to be able to prove to the DEQ that Goodland Township is a unique community because of all the crops we grow here," Cischke said on Monday. "We also have to draft a resolution from the board and have a public hearing, which we have not done yet.

"We're trying to get all our ducks in a row," he continued. "We're not leaving any stone unturned in trying to get this done."

Township Board member Norm Tanis said members are still in the process of gathering information to present their best case to the MDEQ.

"We're not totally against this process," Tanis said. "It has to go somewhere and we know there are probably some applications that are better than others. We also know it's a good low-cost fertilizer source for local farmers. We're trying to be proactive rather than reactive."

Tanis said problems remain, including the lack of notification of the times and locations of such dumping.

"The people who are doing the application are not notifying us," Tanis said, "and no one wants to seem to address the issue of pharmaceuticals that can get in there. It's the unknowns that are the concerns."

Also in attendance at the Dec. 22 meeting was Lapeer County Drain Commissioner John Cosens, who cautioned township board members about acting too quickly.

"He (Cosens) claims we need more proof," said Cischke. "He thinks we should wait until the summertime and take pictures of the dumping. But that would mean waiting another six or eight months to act. We're worried about this stuff getting into our local water supplies and streams.

"Nobody really knows what's in that stuff (biosolids)," Cischke said earlier. "We want it proven that the process is safe and that it's not getting into our wells and water supplies."

Cischke noted that there have been cases where the dumped waste has been left on the surface for periods of time that exceed MDEQ limits.

In those cases, Cischke said the biosolids were not "knifed" into the soil, as is legally permitted, but were dumped on top of the ground.

"There have been problems with that in the past out on Sisson Road," Tanis agreed. "We want to be advised of what is going on and to protect the public."

MDEQ officials have said the proof that the dumping of biosolids is safe has already been presented.

Mike Person, environmental quality analyst for MDEQ, said the program suffers from "public perception issues" and that the state has established appropriate, safe guidelines for the distribution of biosolid waste.

There could be yet another stumbling block for township officials seeking implementation of a local ordinance governing the dumping of biosolids.

In an earlier letter from the MDEQ, Johnson noted that to maintain statewide consistency of the regulation of land application of biosolids, the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act preempts local regulation.

Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.
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