Friday, March 11, 2011

Opinion: Proposed Atlantic Mine Solid Waste Transfer Station causes concern for smell, safety

[Editor's Update: We previously published the original version of this article, which had an error concerning the Houghton County Commissioners' Mar. 15 meeting. According to Houghton County Commissioner Anton Pintar, it is the County Planning Commission that will make a recommendation on the site plan for the new Transfer Station in Atlantic Mine at their meeting at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, Mar. 15, in the Circuit Court Room, second floor of the Houghton County Courthouse. As of now, Monday, Mar. 14, the Transfer Station is not on the agenda of the Mar. 15 Houghton County Commissioners' meeting.]

By Doug Welker*


HOUGHTON -- The current Houghton County Solid Waste Transfer Station, the place where local "trash" is collected for transfer to disposal sites, is sinking into a mine on the south edge of Houghton. A new site for the facility needed to be found.

But, how was that site selected? Apparently there was no county-owned land that was suitable, so the County Board decided to buy land from private owners. The process involved was not exactly a competitive bidding situation. A former County Commissioner simply asked around until he found an apparently good site that someone was willing to sell to the county. The new county land on Erickson Road off M-26 in Atlantic Mine is now proposed as the site for the future Transfer Station.

In some respects it is a good site. It is not on a major highway but on a well-used secondary road. The facility is planned to be screened from view to some extent by an existing barrier of woods, perhaps 100 feet deep. It will be quite visible in winter, but probably not much in summer.

Now, the bad news. On the Houghton County Future Land Use Map, the site is listed as Rural Residential, and normally a Solid Waste Transfer Station would not be permitted there. However, the Land Use Map may not be worth the paper it’s printed on, because apparently the County Board can change the designation of land it owns to whatever it wants.**

Increased traffic on Erickson is potentially dangerous, and slow-moving trucks may irritate drivers on both Erickson and on M-26 between Erickson and Festival Foods. The corner of Erickson and M-26 has apparently been the site of two fatal accidents already.

In addition, even if well designed, such a facility would detract from the basically residential character of the area. Such facilities can be noisy, but their main impact is odor. Reducing odor requires taking special actions, such as daily washing of all surfaces in contact with waste and daily shipping of all waste to disposal sites. It is not clear that those actions would be taken.

Editor's Update: According to Houghton County Commissioner Anton Pintar, the site (location) for the new Transfer Station was decided in 2009. Pintar told Keweenaw Now today, Mar. 14, that the Houghton County Planning Commission will make a recommendation on the site plan (design) for the new Transfer Station in Atlantic Mine at their meeting at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, Mar. 15, in the Circuit Court Room, second floor of the Houghton County Courthouse. As of now, Monday, Mar. 14, the Transfer Station is not on the agenda of the Mar. 15 Houghton County Commissioners' meeting. The County Commissioners are not required to vote on the Planning Commission's recommendation.

County meetings are open to the public and allow time for public comments. Concerned citizens are encouraged to attend either meeting. Click here for links to some of the more recent minutes of the County Commissioners' meetings.

Editor's Notes:
*
This article originally appeared in the Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK) March 2011 Newsletter. Reprinted with permission of the author, Doug Welker, co-editor of the Newsletter. Check out FOLK's new, updated Web site and newsletters online.
** Click here for the Houghton County Future Land Use Map.

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