Dump site

To the Editor:

The recent discussions concerning the waste disposal site at the Sheboygan County Memorial Airport are missing some important information for the citizens of Sheboygan County.

The citizens of the township of Sheboygan Falls, including resident scientists and engineers, have done a tremendous amount of investigation into this potential landfill site and what is proposed to be dumped there. These residents are also knowledgeable about DNR regulations (large farms must abide by them) and the soil and drainage conditions of the area.

The biggest concern is the dredged river material that contains hazardous levels of lead and zinc. The recent Corps of Engineers Environmental Assessment showed that just the average of the lead samples from the mouth of the river contains 77 ppm (parts per million). The Wisconsin DNR sets the threshold level at 50 ppm. Many samples were above the DNR threshold, some more than double. Above that level could be harmful to humans, similar to the effects of lead paint on walls, which is banned. And many of the samples are over the next higher hazardous level of lead content, according to the Wis. DNR. This leads many people to believe that this is indeed hazardous material.

The other potential contaminants are fly ash and arsenic. These are commonly found in drying material, which the Corps of Engineers has said they will be mixing with the river sediment from the Eighth Street-to-harbor section of the river. The DNR also stated in committee meetings that they have no idea how much of these contaminants would be added to the river sludge because the companies contracted with to provide it consider that mixture proprietary. So there is no measure of how toxic the final mix will be. No accurate testing can be done because the mix of chemicals is not fully known. This creates another level of risk for land and water contamination for the county residents.

The initial design of the clay-lined disposal site does not guarantee the citizens of the county that lead, zinc, fly ash, or possibly arsenic or mercury will not leak into the surrounding soil and water. There is no underground liner in the design and not even any compaction of the clay soil; just “dig and dump.” None of the governmental agencies at the town meetings could positively ensure the water and soil safety using this method of containment.

Lead, heavy metals, and many other contaminants do not deteriorate in soil and can follow water drainage through cracks in clay at a landfill and go right back into the Sheboygan River, which is less than one mile from the airport site.

Also, all the airport wells are directly east of the site and first in line to be potentially contaminated with lead and possibly fly ash, mercury or arsenic. Then there are multi-million dollar businesses east of the airport. If they are gone, that reduces county tax income by multiple thousands of dollars annually, in addition to loss of many jobs and support for other local businesses. From there, the underground waterways extend east into the town of Sheboygan and Lake Michigan. If the wells at the airport become contaminated, it would be tragic to tell our visitors from around the world that they “cannot drink the water.”

Another question never answered concretely was that of the enormous discrepancy in PCB test results. For over 20 years, PCB test results in the Sheboygan River were very similar year-to-year, study-to-study. Hazardous readings and “hot spots” of highly contaminated areas abound. Now all of a sudden, the measurements average out to 1 ppm. How does this happen? None of the governmental agencies has a proven scientific answer for this, only speculation.

The airport manager also stated at township committee meetings in December and January, when asked what the future development of this dump site might be, is that there is nothing except maybe a taxiway sometime in the future. Later in February, the Town Board found that the county had written a letter in late October to U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, stating that this airport site would contain a new road to lead to a new fuel tank farm for gasoline and jet fuel right on top of one of the landfill pits.

The testing of the airport dump site shows results that were reviewed by a well driller. These results show about 40-50 percent clay, approximately 25 percent silt and the rest a mix of sand, stone and gravel. The test result sheets also show blank for the type of sealing and backfilling of these test holes.

Also, a farm existed on this site before the airport bought it. Documentation shows at least onetwo wells on the site. Many old farms have wells filled with rocks. If these conditions exist, any contaminated water can run through them directly into the wetlands next to the site, and then directly into the Sheboygan River. New underground drainage was just put in place within the last couple years that ensures the runoff from this wetland goes under the road and directly into the Sheboygan River.

More information has also come to light recently. Other agencies must also approve this project. The Bureau of Aeronautics, which regulates the Sheboygan County airport, is not on board with this dump site nor do they approve of the design of the dump cells (pits). To date, there is no official approval from either the FAA or the Wis. DOT.

The town of Sheboygan Falls invited several local and state representatives to attend their February board meeting. Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan, initially said he would attend but never showed up. Rep. Steve Kestell, R-Elkhart Lake, 27th Assembly District, did not return any township phone calls for approximately two weeks ahead of the meeting. The mayoral candidates and the current mayor of Sheboygan may not have thought this portion of the river project was important enough to attend any of the committee or Town Board meetings or the public meeting of the DNR.

Former state Sen. Cal Potter, D-Sheboygan, is a local resident and offered up an alternative at both the DNR meeting and also at the Town Board meeting, which was echoed by others in the township. Design the waste dump site with an impermeable liner that will not allow any water, chemicals, or soil to escape. Capture any water that comes out into pits where the leached materials and water can be tested, treated, and properly disposed of. He stated that overengineering of this site is the right thing to do to protect all county residents.

This material to be dredged from the Eighth Street bridge to the harbor has been already turned down by the town of Sheboygan and the Alliant Energy landfill. The other dredge area projects on the river are already taking that material to licensed Wisconsin landfills such as Hilbert and Whitelaw.

There are other alternatives to be explored: taking the dredge material to the Hilbert or Whitelaw landfills, redesigning the airport site with better engineering methods to ensure no contaminants get back into the Sheboygan River or residents’ wells, finding other local alternative sites with good containment design to ensure no leaking of contaminants, etc. Some residents of the town of Sheboygan Falls agreed with Potter’s recommendations for a better landfill design that ensures no leaking of any contaminants.

As a previous editorial stated, the goal is to protect the public. That is exactly what the town of Sheboygan Falls wants to do.

County Administrator Adam Payne stated in Saturday’s (Feb. 11) Sheboygan Press: “There’s millions of dollars in EPA funding to complete this project that may not be there if we don’t finish this year.” Is Payne more worried about the millions of dollars in EPA funding than he is about the risks to the citizens of Sheboygan County?

There is time to consider many alternatives. The DNR estimates another six weeks or so before they issue any decision. Step back and think about the safety of the Sheboygan County people. It’s better to over-engineer a solution, provide safety, and be able to sleep at night.

Carol Leannah, town
of Sheboygan Falls

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