Hearing Postponed On Maroco LawsuitIssue Date: October 19, 2011
Hearing on lawsuits brought against Marinette and Oconto counties and their jointly owned Maroco Landfill by neighbors Charles and Colleen DeSmidt has been postponed to allow parties a chance to reach a mediated settlement, according to Landfill Administrator John LeFebvre. The DeSmidts are seeking a total of more than $640,000 damages on behalf of themselves and their golf course and real estate operations.
As of Monday, Oct. 17, no date had been set for mediation or negotiation sessions, but LeFebvre expects the talks to be held in late November.
LeFebvre informed the MarOco Landfill Committee at their regular monthly meeting on Friday, Oct. 14 that court proceedings were scheduled to begin on Tuesday, Oct. 18, but attorneys had been discussing the possibility of further attempts to mediate, and he expected to know the outcome of those discussions sometime Friday afternoon. He confirmed Monday morning that parties will have one more chance to negotiate, after which they will probably go to court if agreements are not reached.
Much of the discussion at Fridays committee meeting involved finances and the cost of hauling leachate from the landfill to the disposal and treatment site in Green Bay, which is included in purchase of services in the MarOco budget.
A change in operations brought about by concerns surrounding the lawsuit added to the amount of leachate hauled and to the related expense.
With the year only three-quarters gone, all but $59,835 has been spent from the $348,500 originally allocated. LeFebvre said 99 percent of that line item went for leachate disposal and treatment. Because of the higher than anticipated expense, he asked the committee to transfer $125,000 from retained earnings to carry them through to the end of the year. That was done by unanimous committee vote.
In addition to leachate disposal, the other major expense to be covered is DNR environmental fees. The current DNR recycling bill comes to $37,000. It is calculated at $7 per ton for all the refuse brought into the landfill.
Leachate is the liquid that filters through the refuse at the landfill and is collected by a series of pipes to either be recirculated through the active cell or hauled away to the wastewater treatment plant near Green Bay. Recirculating leachate means spraying it on top of refuse in the active cell so it can filter through again, which serves to further settle the trash and aids in decomposition, thus conserving landfill space and cutting down on the total quantity of leachate to be hauled.
Rainy years mean higher leachate disposal cost, LeFebvre said, and while this year was not particularly wet, last year was, and it takes a while for leachate to work all the way through the garbage mass.
In the last year and a half, we have hauled over nine million gallons of leachate, LeFebvre declared. He said one reason is that the cell they had hoped would reach capacity last fall so it could be capped off still isnt filled because there was more capacity than they thought. It will be filled and ready to cap next spring, which means rain water will roll off that cell rather than filtering through it.
Committee Chair Al Sauld of Niagara, one of Marinette Countys three representatives on the committee, asked if LeFebvre had put enough money in the budget to cover that. LeFebvre said he had, but they have not been recirculating leachate, which adds to the amount that must be hauled. Recirculating leachate does generate more odor from the landfill.
Sauld asked LeFebvre to explain why leachate is not being recirculated.
The problem is the way we changed operations to appease the neighbors, LeFebvre said, and this has added to our costs. He was referring to the DeSmidt lawsuit.
We incurred the cost of putting in the leachate collection system and now were not using it, Sauld declared. Its costing us money because of the lawsuit.
LeFebvre agreed. He said in addition to ceasing leachate recirculation, they have spent more money just to make it look good, by having the areas on and around the landfill policed more frequently to collect blowing trash and putting on more daily cover than legally necessary, which reduces landfill capacity over the long term.
Any company thats running under the scrutiny we are right now is going to do things that arent otherwise necessary, LeFebvre declared. It wont go away even after the lawsuit is over, he added. He (DeSmidt) wont go away, and we wont go away...Just get used to spending money.
Otherwise, income is slightly below last year, but on schedule with the budgeted amounts, and accounts payable are pretty much up to date.
Clean Sweep program participation was less than expected. People from Marinette County brought in 187 pounds of hazardous or suspect materials to the various collection sites, compared with 408 at the last Clean Sweep in 2006, and Oconto County residents brought in 94 pounds, compared with 162 five years ago. Only a handful of farmers brought materials in, compared with 47 to 50 last time. There are 450 farms in our counties and only five brought in stuff, LeFebvre commented.
Part of the problem was the timing, LeFebvre felt. Oconto Supervisor Bill Popp commented that most farmers today contract out their pesticide and fertilizer spraying operations and probably no longer get accumulations of leftover poisons and pesticides.
Farmers much preferred the April collection time over October, when they are rushing to complete the harvest before the snow flies. Also, the program was conducted on an absolutely beautiful fall weekend when people wanted to be out hunting or otherwise enjoying the fine weather.
LeFebvre said they knew the fall timing was not the best, but he was not able to schedule the Clean Sweep in spring because of the unsettled condition of state finances and uncertainty of getting the grant that had been promised. When the grant finally was confirmed he asked for a delay until next spring, but was told if it was not used this year they would have to apply all over again.
Supervisor Clancy Whiting, who represents the Beecher/Dunbar area on Marinette County Board, speculated that the volume of materials was down because many property owners got rid of accumulated materials at the 2006 Clean Sweep, which was the first hazardous waste collection program ever in Marinette and Oconto counties.
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