Landfill Safety Concerns Addressed

MONTCALM COUNTY, Mich. – Folks living near the Central Sanitary Landfill in Pierson are raising serious concerns about the smell and their groundwater.

Wednesday night, the Department of Environmental Quality (D.E.Q.) and landfill management tried to answer some questions, but not all the neighbors left the public hearing at ease.

Judy Howard lives a few miles South of the landfill in Sand Lake, she says she can tell when she’s getting close to Pierson.

“We could smell the gas and our noses and throats were burning.”

Howard says she’s concerned about the health and safety of everyone living around the landfill, so she attended the meeting at Pierson Township Hall.

“I was thinking about all the people in the neighborhood inhaling such a strong smell.”

Dozens of people with similar concerns showed up – it was more than the D.E.Q. expected.

Landfill management showed diagrams and maps, explaining an updated plan to keep nearby well water safe.  The same area had groundwater contamination back in 1989. Three years later, the D.E.Q. told the crowd there was a plan in place to clean up the water.

“Everybody’s safe around here,” explains Fred Seller from the D.E.Q, adding that the water has been safe for years and well water tests consistently show no contamination.

But many of the residents are still uneasy; especially after listening to their neighbors tell stories about loved ones getting sick, friends with rare diseases sometimes living on the same block, or entire families with allergies and asthma who suddenly didn’t need medicine when they moved out of the area.

Jeri Hayden has lived nearby for more than 22 years.

“(The smell is) rotten eggs,” she says. “It’s a horrible feeling, it burns your eyes, nose and your throat and we get severe headaches.”

Hayden is fighting a rare cancer, and says the odor – which seems to get worse late at night – is not helping.

“It’s really hard for me to try to recuperate.  I can’t breathe at night in our house.”

Sellers explains that the gas released from the landfill contains sulfite compounds, but at safe levels.

“People are particularly sensitive to (sulfite compounds) and they pick them up at very low odor threshold,” Sellers says.

While the D.E.Q. sympathizes with the unpleasant smell, Sellers says the landfill’s air quality is compliant with it’s permits, and burns off anything harmful before the gas is released.

“The best thing people can do is remove themselves from that area if they’re experiencing (strong odors) in their house,” Sellers suggests.  “They need to get out of the house, get some fresh air, maybe open some windows.”

Hayden says that doesn’t work.

“You can’t open up your windows to air your house out, because (the smell is) coming from the outside.”

Many of the residents asked the panel for more testing to help boost their confidence, while the landfill and the D.E.Q. remained confident that the surrounding groundwater is safe, and the smell is just an unfortunate part of living in the area.

The D.E.Q. is expected to make a decision on the landfill’s updated remedial action plan by March 13.

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10 comments

  • East side neighbor

    I live on the east side the landfill and very little do I smell it, unless I'm getting off the exit. As far as the water I have the best tasting water I've ever had from a well or city water. I'm sure the smells affect some people on the west side of it, but on the east side I would say maybe 4 times a month I smell it and only for a few minutes unless the gas isn't burning, which is usually at night. My main question is which side is the run off? I was always told it was on WhiteFish side now I'm hearing the east side. So which is it?

  • Guest

    I simpathize with those having issues, but 17 years ago when I was looking to buy land, I passed on parcels in that area because there was a landfill. There was an odor then, there is an odor now. You can't buy land next to an airport, then complain about the jet noise…….

  • neighbot

    you people at the township and deq delinquents just like to talk in circles and not accomplish anything…who is getting paid off…..hmmmm makes me wonder???

  • Cedric Rhoades

    Once again, beaurocrats at work. Something in Pierson stinks and it isn't just the landfill. Many people in this area have lived there thier entire lives. They have literally had to work countless hours and more than one job to own the property they now cannot sell. Shame on the bastard and I use that word shamelessly, who suggested "go outside' or move? The landfill has made their homes worthless. I doubt there was full disclosure to the community when the landfill was proposed. Yes there is an odor in Pierson. In fact two…..one from the landfill and the other from the office holders who want to blow it off. Which on is worse?

  • Cedric Rhoades

    Looking at the officials on the left and the residents on the left I would bet my life on the residents and my demise on the officials. How many of them live near the landfill? And who is testing and watching the testers at the site? Do they allow the site to self monitor? Where are the inspection records? Residents of Pierson, you have a RIGHT to see them, who tested, who they worked for and what were the results? Is there no attorney out there willing to help these innocents?

  • Guest

    What a stupid remark made by Mr. Sellers go out side or open windows to get fresh air,how is that possible when that;s where the smell is coming from,sometimes the smell is so strong it makes you puke.

  • guest

    So sorry for the people who live by there. It does smell bad. My parents still live in the area, but closer to Howard City, but I do get off of at that exit and it is bad. Asking someone to go outside to get fresh air, when there is no fresh air is just dumb.

  • Carrie Veltkamp

    I grew up in Pierson and it use to be a great place to live. I actually lived next to the landfill for a while. Years ago I never notices a smell unless it was really hot out and then it was just a garbage smell. I played outside all the time. In the last 5years I have noticed the rotten egg smell getting worse. I love to be outside in the summer spending time with family and friends. But you can’t even have a cookout anymore and not lose your appetite because of the smell. Yes we chose to live hear and most of us have been here before the dump moved in. My question is why should we suffer because the dump moved in?