County May Ask Legislators For Help With DNR PermitsIssue Date: July 11, 2019
Frustrations he has faced in dealings with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on two issues over the past two or three years were obvious in Marinette County Administrator John LeFebvre's report to the Development Committee on Tuesday, July 9.
Discussion eventually led to a suggestion from Supervisor Bonnie Popp that the county should contact local legislators and ask them to help set up a meeting with the DNR to get things settled. LeFebvre and other committee members agreed that might be the right answer.
"Lately I've been contacting them (local legislators) on so many things that they're probably sick of me," LeFebvre added.
Among those issues are the status of the North County Landfill Irrigation system, for which a permit renewal from the DNR has been pending for over two years, and of remediation for a property in the Village of Wausaukee that previously was the Wausaukee Laundromat.
LeFebvre remains very involved in both issues since they date back to his position as head of the county's Land Information Department prior to being named County Administrator. Among other things, his responsibilities as Land Information Director had included landfill construction and operation and well as zoning and remediation of Brownfields properties.
The committee had suggested viewing the long-closed North County Landfill near Niagara as part of its August meeting, but LeFebvre said at Tuesday's meeting that there would be little point in doing that right now. He is still waiting for a permit renewal from the DNR for the North County Landfill Irrigation System. With the old permit expired, right now they cannot irrigate, and the committee would see nothing there but grass.
The small North County Landfill, which has been closed for 27 years, has a somewhat innovative system of recycling leachate from site for use in an irrigation system to keep the grassy cover growing. This saves the cost of having the leachate trucked away, and serves to keep the grass over the site green and alive. The problem is that the permit for the system, which is part of the landfill's long-term care program, has expired and LeFebvre's attempts to get it renewed with a satisfactory agreement in place have so far been unsuccessful. He said he will keep trying.
Meanwhile, in this very wet year they have not been able to irrigate with any leachate, and have had to hire a trucker to haul it away instead of being allowed to spray it back over the site and letting it evaporate.
In regard to the Wausaukee Laundromat property, LeFebvre said back in 2018 he had started working with a consultant on a plan for remediation that will be sure vapors from the ground do not re-enter that building or adjoining structures.
The site had been contaminated with dry cleaning solvents and fumes from the underlying soil had seeped into the building, causing it to be declared unfit for use until the conditions could be remedied.
He said there has been so much change-over in the DNR that every time he and the consultant would get their DNR contact person up to speed they left that job and someone else was assigned and they had to start over. "Now the consultant is retiring and if that does happen, I will need to get a new one," LeFebvre said. If possible, he would much prefer to get it done before the current consultant retires. "We have a work plan in place, we just need to get it approved by the DNR," LeFebvre said. He added that if it becomes necessary to hire a new consultant for this long-overdrawn issue they will need to get him or her to buy into the plan before they can resubmit to the DNR, probably along with another $1,500 application fee.
As to the North County Landfill, LeFebvre said he had an RFP approved in January, sent paperwork to the DNR in March, and it was the end of May before they received a request from the DNR for another signature. The DNR also wanted a change in the groundwater monitoring plan and other information.
He said on Monday, July 8 he received a draft approval of the new agreement, but it still contains requirements for additional groundwater monitoring that he feels are unnecessary, and it includes no ending date for the testing requirements.
"That landfill has been closed for 27 years," LeFebvre declared. "The trend in groundwater contamination has been downward since it was closed....I see no justification for them to increase our groundwater monitoring at this point!"
He said they test for 47 different Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and in the most recent round of testing there was a hint of one of those compounds - not in the groundwater, but in the leachate. He said during irrigation, those compounds come into contact with the air and die off.
He repeated that the tentatively DNR-approved permit calls for the increased test requirements for at least five years, but does not list an end date. He said he has written to legislators and to others in the DNR, "but to no avail as of yet."
Having to haul the leachate away costs the county about $1,200 more a year than irrigating, LeFebvre said. He added he will give it one more try before agreeing to a permit requirement that he feels is unjust and unjustified.
"I'm afraid if they put this requirement in, what's to stop them from adding more requirements next time?" LeFebvre commented, adding that every time they have to hire a new consultant and submit a new request to the DNR the county has to pay a new review fee of $1,650 to the DNR.
He said as things stand right now, "we either accept what they're proposing or it sits in limbo!"
He said if the DNR's request for more tests is just to collect the data, "I'm fine with that...but tell me why and give me an end date!"
He said there are 30 plus wells at the little landfill in Pembine. Four of them are sub-D wells that they test twice a year, and the landfill was closed long before sub-D requirements ever came into effect.
The North Country Landfill fill area totals 50,000 square yards, while most landfills come to a million and a half square yards or more, LeFebvre said.
At this point Popp suggested asking legislators to set up a meeting with the DNR, and LeFebvre said he may do just that.
In other business, committee members were authorized to take part in Tree Farm Day, which will start at The Woods west of Crivitz on Saturday, Aug. 17 and go on to tour the tree farm of Tom and Leslyn Jacobs, who were honored by the Wisconsin Tree Farm Committee as Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year."
In other business, the committee recommended that County Board approve a Town of Niagara zoning change to allow a conditional use for a water conditioning business to include salt, equipment and water storage and water softener; and a Town of Peshtigo decision to assign A1 Agricultural Low Density zoning to several properties on Old Cedar Way that were recently detached from the City of Peshtigo and attached to the town at the owners' request.
On LeFebvre's recommendation the committee removed a proposed $5 fee for providing notary service from a list of proposed user fees, as well as proposed 25 cents per page for updated parcel maps. Other changes going to County Board for approval will bring the cost for combining parcels from $20 to $25, and contracted services of employees from $50 to $60 per hour.
Supervisor Clancy Whiting spoke at some length about his quest for a site for the world's largest birdhouse, parts of which are currently in storage in Dunbar. He promised more information at a later date, but said the main part of the birdhouse has slots for 3,500 nesting birds.
County Board Chair Mark Anderson asked the committee to begin looking at increasing housing opportunities as a way to attract workers to live in this area."If we do nothing, we are going to become a very, very old community!" Anderson declared.
County Board Vice Chair Robert Holley said he has been selected to serve on a UWEX committee that next week will interview candidates for a vacant 4-H educator position. He expressed hope the new person will stay on the job longer than the old one did.
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