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Public Wants Wisconsin DNR To Take Deeper Look At Proposed Menomonee Falls Landfill Expansion

Menomonee Falls Landfill
Susan Bence
Trucks leaving Orchard Ridge landfill in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin's largest landfill.

Wisconsin’s largest landfill is about to grow — that is if the Wisconsin DNR approves Orchard Ridge’s request to expand by 76.6 acres. The plan would allow the landfill owner to open up a Superfund site located within the Menomonee Falls complex and move it to make way for expansion.

Tuesday evening, the DNR hosted a public informational hearing on the topic.

Don Smith, environmental engineer for landfill owner Waste Management, told attendees every day 500 to 600 trucks haul in garbage from homes and businesses in Ozaukee, Washington, Waukesha and Milwaukee Counties.

Dan Smith with Waste Management told attendees at Tuesday evening's public meeting that the Eagle Ridge expansion will incorporate state-of-the-art monitoring and technology.
Waste Management
Dan Smith with Waste Management told attendees at Tuesday evening's public meeting that the Eagle Ridge expansion will incorporate state-of-the-art monitoring and technology.

Smith wanted people who showed up at Menomonee Falls Village Hall or joined virtually to know that gaining approval to expand the landfill is a rigorous process.

“You’ll see the agencies we deal with, just at the DNR alone — it’s the waste management folks, it’s the air program, it’s the wetland’s folks, it’s the remediation and redevelopment. They get involved because of the Superfund. Army Corps, the Environmental Protection Agency because of the Superfund,” he said.

Smith said he’d read every letter and email the DNR received from people concerned about the proposed landfill.

“Superfunds get reclaimed all the time,” he said. “The next question, 'How do you make sure it’s not hazardous waste you’re digging up and putting back in the ground?' The answer is during this exhumation process, which would run in the winter and the reason you run it in the cold weather is it minimizes odor potential, and what we’re doing is, our waste stream slows down a little in the winter, and we blend it in with the incoming waste. As we exhume it, we’re blending it in."

Smith said environmental consultants will be on the watch for possible hazardous materials. “If it’s not hazardous, it goes over to the landfill. If it is hazardous, it’ll be treated and disposed of at a licensed facility that’s licensed to take that material,” he explained.

What followed was nearly two hours of public testimony from people whose concerns didn’t appear to be appeased by Smith’s assurances. Menomonee Falls resident Janet Sherwin feared the landfill would be opening up what is not meant to be opened.

“I’m concerned about the safety and the effect on wildlife and on the residents if we disturb this landfill. I guess my final concern is just that I’ve heard the plans that are in place to monitor the project, but once it’s breached and something’s discovered, it’s too late,” said Sherwin.

Charlene LeMoine spoke on behalf of a volunteer-driven group called the Waukesha Environmental Action League, it’s been monitoring the landfill’s growth over the years.

READ: Making Room For More Waste: Wisconsin's Largest Landfill Wants To Expand

“We commented on the last three expansions at Orchard Ridge and this particular expansion is the most serious that we’ve seen, simply because it’s going to be digging up and relocating a Superfund site. And that’s one of the reasons why we really believe an EIS should be done,” she said.

LeMoine’s call for an EIS, an environmental impact statement, was echoed by others throughout the evening, including environmental lawyer Dennis Grzezinki. He said opening up a Superfund site warrants taking a deeper look at its potential environmental impacts.

“The risks of excavating a 100 million cubic yards of waste that went into the old landfill, including pesticides, heavy metals, chlorinated solvents and other poisons, and to have any idea not simply to evaluate but to minimize and manage the risks of releasing some of those substances into the air and water,” Grzezinski said.

The public can still comment on the proposed Orchard Ridge landfill expansion. The deadline is May 28.

DNR attorney Philip Moss told Tuesday night’s attendees any questions posed throughout the comment period will receive a response. The DNR has 60 days to announce its decision.

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Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.
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