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Canada trash keeps coming
County fifth most popular for dumping
By Ron Fonger
Flint Journal
02/03/04

Genesee County - Local landfills took 41 percent more Canadian garbage last year than they did in 2002, making Genesee County the fifth most-popular dumping ground in the state.

It's the second straight disappointing year for those who worry about preserving local landfill space for the future. Since 2001, Canadian trash imports are up in Genesee County from 200,511 cubic yards in 2001 to 1.4 million cubic yards in 2003.

A report released Monday by the state Department of Environmental Quality showed the sharp increase and an overall state increase of 43 percent more Canadian waste last year.

At the Brent Run Landfill in Montrose Township, almost twice as much garbage from Canada was buried this year compared to last, according to the state report.

Four of every 10 bags of trash put in the area's biggest landfill came from Canada in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

Matt Neely, area president for Republic Services, which owns Brent Run, said he expects trash imports to remain steady this year.

"The major change is that some more landfills have closed," Neely said. "I think (we will) maintain an even pace."

The report was another frustrating reminder to politicians and ordinary people of how difficult it has been to stop garbage imports.

"It's kind of stupid to begin with ... especially with all this fresh water," said Gerry Natzke of Davison, who worries about the potential for contamination of creeks, rivers and streams.

Like others, he was bothered when last year's DEQ report showed extra garbage coming to Michigan after an Ontario landfill closed Jan. 1, 2003, and Toronto began sending all of its trash to a landfill in Wayne County's Sumpter Township.

Canadian waste sent to Michigan went up to 9.4 million cubic yards in fiscal 2003, from 6.6 million cubic yards in 2002, the DEQ report said.

In all, Michigan landfills took in 62.6 million cubic yards of waste in 2003, up from 57.5 million the year before.

Citizens Disposal in Mundy Township took no Canadian trash for the third straight year, and the Richfield Landfill in Richfield Township increased its Canadian garbage imports by 43 percent, to 119,828 cubic yards.

Bill McDonnaugh, general manager of Great Lakes Waste, which operates Citizens, said it's not worth taking Canadian garbage at Citizens but it's still worthwhile for others.

"It's all up to what's happening in Ontario," he said of the future. "It's not (going to change) unless some pressure is put on (Ontario). It's going to keep coming to Michigan."

Citizens took waste from outside Michigan into its landfill last year - trucking in shredded automobiles from Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and New York, McDonnaugh said. Out-of-state garbage accounted for 25 percent of all disposals at Citizens last year.

In Shiawassee County, the Venice Park Recycling & Disposal Facility reported taking no garbage from Canada for the third straight year.

The DEQ report riled elected officials who have tried to block the shipments of Canadian trash.

Genesee County Commissioner Archie Bailey, D-Flushing, said he may ask the county Board of Commissioners to follow Wayne County's efforts to use the state's bottle law to try to keep household trash out of county landfills.

Bailey proposed a tourist boycott of Toronto last year in response to swelling trash exports, and about 5,000 cards were mailed to tourism officials there, he said.

State Rep. John J. Gleason, D-Flushing, blamed Republican lawmakers for blocking bills that would require sorting by Canada before trash crosses into Michigan.

Ontario doesn't have a recycling law like Michigan's, and Gleason said requiring it to separate bottles and cans from garbage could make it too expensive to continue shipments.

"It's going to be a big campaign issue," Gleason predicted. "The only thing we can do is pass laws. The Democrats are trying very hard to do that."

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