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WUWM's Susan Bence reports on Wisconsin environmental issues.

Concerned residents hope to form advisory group to track Superfund project at Wisconsin’s largest landfill

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Susan Bence
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WUWM
Orchard Ridge in Menomonee Falls is Wisconsin's largest landfill with a four-county reach.

Orchard Ridge is just a half hour drive northwest of Milwaukee. The 725 acre complex accepts waste from neighboring Menomonee Falls as well as communities throughout Waukesha, Milwaukee, Washington, and Ozaukee counties.

58 acres of Orchard Ridge is deemed a “Superfund” site. It’s a term used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to describe places highly polluted with toxic materials that require long term cleanup.

The owner, Waste Management, wants to dig up the Superfund to expand the landfill’s capacity.

Some concerned people are working to form a Community Advisory Group — also called a CAG — to influence decisions made about the Superfund site.

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Susan Bence
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WUWM
Penney Waggoner (left) and Charlene Lemoine hope the creation of a Community Advisory Group can influence plans to dig up a contaminated site within the Orchard Ridge Landfill.

Charlene Lemoine is one of those people. She’s a member of the Waukesha County Environmental Action League. Lemoine has kept an eye on Orchard Ridge for years. Right now, its Superfund site is consuming her attention. Originally called Lauer I Landfill, it operated from 1954 to 1971.

Lemoine says when it was designated a Superfund site, the landfill became known as Boundary Road rather than Lauer I, adding confusion to an already confusing situation.

According to the EPA’s Superfund website, “Waste was placed below the groundwater table, outward migration of leachate reached the surrounding aquifer.” In 1981, Waste Management installed an underground wall of clay materials to mitigate the problem.

Then in 2017, Waste Management received local and county approval to increase its landfill capacity. Lemoine says digging up the superfund is part of the plan.

In July 2019, Menomonee Falls resident Penney Waggoner learned the Superfund site existed. Feeling her and her neighbors' concerns were not being heard, Waggoner formed a citizen group, Falls REACT II.

Then in July 2021, the DNR held a hearing to get feedback from the public.

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

"Concerns among the citizens about the kind of pollutants that will be released if they are allowed to dig down 35 feet on about 52.6 football fields, for people to envision. And the water table is down at 31 feet; so they want to go below the water table which is inevitable contamination then of all kinds of groundwater," Waggoner says. "So people who are downwind and downstream are very very concerned."

Waggoner and Charlene Lemoine recently discovered forming a Community Advisory Group could be an effective way to raise citizen concerns.

"I didn't know anything about CAGs until I realized they were going to dig up the Superfund site, and I started to do a lot of research…. And found that was something available at any time in the Superfund process. That a community, or impacted residents from several communities even, could form a CAG," Lemoine says.

According to the EPA, a CAG serves as “The focal point for the exchange of information among the local community and EPA the State regulatory agency, and other pertinent Federal agencies involved in the cleanup of the Superfund site.”

Lemoine says the first step is for people to let the Wisconsin DNR know they want to form a CAG.

“The DNR is just soliciting interest and if they have enough interest in forming a CAG, then the next step would be an information meeting so people could hear directly from the regulatory agencies exactly what a CAG does,” Lemoine says.

The deadline to express interest in a CAG for the Superfund at Orchard Ridge is August 30, 2022. A DNR spokesperson says comments regarding the potential formation of a Community Advisory Group (CAG) for the site may be submitted to the DNR’s BRL project manager BJ LeRoy at BJ.LeRoy@wisconsin.gov. Please include “BRL CAG Interest” in the subject line.

Charlene Lemoine considers it an opportunity for community empowerment. “It’s advisory, so they don’t make decisions, but they can influence decisions and that is really important,” she says.

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Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.
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