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April 05, 1983 - Image 6

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1983-04-05

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Page 6-Tuesday, April 5, 1983-The Michigan Daily
Nearby waste sites breed fear

(Continued from Page 1)
"We have volunteered to give health
histories but no one is coming forward
to take our information," said Pat Hill,
one of the few residents who gave per-
mission to use her name. "For two
years (they have) promised to send
someone out (to investigate)," she said.
"There is never any follow through."
State Department of Public Health
spokesman Roy Klabiter said the
people of the community are respon-
sible for reporting health information to
their county health officer.
BUT LIVINGSTON County health of-
ficer Larry Prior said residents have
made little more than "unsubstantiated
complaints." He said he was waiting to
receive something "beyond rumor."
Hill said health officials have told her
they cannot get legal permission to en-
ter the Spiegelberg dump to collect data
unless they have conclusive proof of a
health hazard. But, she said, without
the data they could get from the dump,
they cannot prove a health hazard
"They talk in circles to appease you
without giving you any answers."
Because of all the circular arguments
around investigating the issue, officials
told Hill it is unlikely the Spiegelberg
dump will ever be cleaned out, even

though the Superfuhd list rates it as the
fourth worst site in Michigan. There arse
46 sites on the list for Michigan, the
second highest total for any single state
in the nation.
HILL SAID SOME of the skepticism
stems from the results of preliminary
tests done near the sites which showed
that no contamination of the water sup-
ply had taken place. But she said one of-
ficial told her that once the con-
taminants have actually begun filtering
into the groundwater, the site becomes
too expensive to clean up.
"Sure, (the groundwater) hasn't
reached the point of contamination yet,
but what's to say it won't in the future if
nothing is done?" Hill asked.
Prior, director of environmental
health for the Livingston County Depar-
tment of Health, said officials "have
limited information" about the dumps
and have no way of knowing "what has
been dumped, what quantity or where
the dumping has taken place" within
the sites.
He said preliminary tests show no
evidence of groundwater con-
tamination around the dumps. The tests
sampled three wells drilled near the
dumping areas in May of 1981 and
another three last January.
HOWEVER, PRIOR said those tests


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may have missed something.
"You can't check for everything. All
you can do is find out the basic infor-
mation and that then gives you in-
dications" about what level of con-
taminants may be present at the site.
"It's very expensive."
Prior said the dearth of information
about the hazards presented by the
Rasmussen and Spiegelberg dumps is
not uncommon.
"THE PROBLEM is that there are so
many sites that we know so very little
about," he said. "It scares us when
sometimes we think we are secure and,
we find out we're not."
Last November, the Groundwater
Quality Division of the Department of
Natural Resources reported that at the
Spiegelberg dump, "unknown quan-
tities of paint sludges and liquid wastes
were dumped into a pit. . . located in a
sand and gravel area." The report
predicted that such wastes could "con-
taminate the groundwater with heavy
metals and organic chemicals."
A similar report filed about the
Rasmussen dumps says things may be
even worse there.
"LIQUID WASTES were dumped
directly into the landfill," the report
says. "Gravel mining operations have
removed the formerly land-filled
material, uncovering numerous
barrels. Soil samples near the drums
show high concentrations of PCBs."
Residents say they are particularly
concerned by what may be seeping out
of the Rasmussen dump because of a
fire there several years ago. The blaze
lasted for almost three days, causing
overheated barrels of waste to explode
and shoot 30 to 40 feet into the air.
"It was like watching a war," one
resident said.
Although no further dumping has
been allowed at either of the sites since
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1974, residents reported seeing oc-
casional unmarked tank trucks en-
tering the dumps.
A GRAVEL mining operation is
presently operating out of sections of
both sites, a fact which concerns long-
time Brighton resident Gordon Cartier.
He said an Ann Arbor construction
operation has been buying materials
from the dump to mix into concrete.
"For all we know, it may be on all our
driveways," Cartier said.
Cartier said he is surprised Jim
Spiegelberg, owner of one of the dumps,
is not concerned for his own health and
that of the cattle he raises around the
that any further dumping has taken
place at the site since it was closed. He
said he had full permission from state
and county officials for everything
disposed of at the dump.
Spiegelberg said he would end up "in
the poorhouse" if he tried to clean up
everything in his dump. He denied
allegations that he had threatened
residents who have presented com-
plaints to him about health hazards at
the site.
"They (the residents) ain't got
nothing else to do but cause trouble for
somebody who wants to make a living,"
he said.
HOMER RASMUSSEN, owner of the
dump adjacent to Spiegelberg's, could
not be reached for comment.
Department of Natural Resources of-
ficial Gary Klepper said the state does
not have the money to monitor many of
the wells that they have set up to keep
an eye on toxic waste contamination. At
present, only 15 wells are monitored at
dumps throughout Michigan.
Klepper said the state is preparing a
"remedial action master plan" for the
two dumps which would provide a com-
prehensive record of all available data
on the sites.
THE PLAN could include action
against "liable parties," Klepper said,
including the dumps' owners. If, at that
point, no private effort is made to clean
up the sites, the state would then
become eligible for Superfund money to
get the job done.
Even if the sites were approved for
Superfund financing, the state would
still be required to pay 10 percent of the
cost, Klepper said.
But Hill said the residents living on
the edge of the dumps are tired of
waiting. She and several other residen-
ts have begun their own review and
plan to present their findings to state
legislators over the next few months.
Last month, the residents presented
the state Toxic Substance Control
Commission with their complaints. The
group meets monthly to discuss
problems concerning toxic substances'
and to hear testimony from people who
say they have not been getting respon-
ses from other government agencies.
The residents plan to continue their
testimony later this month.
"Going about this thing politically is
the only way to get help," Hill said.
"The state agencies are just buck
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Doily Photo by DOUG McMAHON
The Rasmussen Bros. dump located in Brighton has received a number of
"materials" including paint sludges and liquid wastes which may pose+
public health problems. Because the dump was unable to meet state licen-
sing requirements, it was closed in 1974.
r e e.....
.hratn .rewaer

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WASHINGTON - In California's
Central Valley, an oil refinery pumps
an estimated 230 million gallons of
waste a year into an underground lake
that meets federal standards as a
potential drinking water supply.
The practice is perfectly legal, even
though a small percentage of the
wastes are believed hazardous. But it
has some representatives here upset -
they say federal environmental laws
are riddled with loopholes that allow
millions of tons of hazardous wastes to
be released into the ground, air and
water every year.
The federal law involved is the
Resource Conservation and Recovery
Act. While not as well known as the
"superfund" - the $1.6 billion program
to clean up abandoned chemical waste
dumps such as New York's Love Canal
- it is in some ways more important.
RCRA, as it is usually called, is in-
tended to prevent future Love Canals.
When passed in 1976, supporters said
the law would set up a "cradle-to-
grave" tracking system to ensure
chemicals would be properly handled
from production to disposal. But it
hasn't worked that way.
"Obviouslysthere have been some
improvements" since the' law was
passed, said Rep. James Florio, D-N.J.,
chairman of the House Energy and
Commerce subcommittee on commer-
ce. "In 1976, we didn't have any system.
People could legitimately go out and
dump anything.
"Now, they can go out and dump
about 50 percent," Florio said. He
estimated the amount dumped because
War stalls (
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) - Pollution
experts from the eight Persian Gulf oil
nations agreed yesterday that they

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All Ballots Must Be Returned
by April 10 To Be Included

of the loopholes is more than'40 million
tons a year.
Wastes pour from smokestacks, u-
der an exemption for burning hazar-
dous wastes. They go into municipal
dumps, under an exemption for small
businesses. They are poured into city
sewage systems. And in some cases,
they are simply pumped underground
- even into or near potential sources of
drinking water.
'And one of the loopholes Florio
singles out is injection wells. Under the
law, hazardous chemical wastes can be
disposed of by pumping them into the
ground through an injection well. Many
such injection wells are considered
safe, with the wastes going into isolated
geologic formations like layers of
A 1982 EPA study estimated that 36
billion gallons of hazardous waste were
injected into the earth the previous
year, making it the most common
disposal method.
But the wells ca also pump wastes
into the ground directly over aquifers,
the underground reservoirs of water
that provide drinking water for millions
of Americans. EPA has been promising
for more than three years to issue more
regulations on this practice.
Wells pumping wastes directly into
aquifers must be stopped within six
months after the state files an approved
plan with EPA under the federal safe
INKING Water Act, under current
federal regulations. But only seven
states had approved plans as of Feb. 1
- not including California , and some
states have said they don't even intend
to file plans.
Ail clean-up
can't take gulf-wide action against a
giant Iranian oil slick until Iran and
Iraq agree to a cease-fire, a spokesman
The other six nations were expected
to press their warring neighbors for a
truce at a meeting of their health
ministers in Kit tomorrow.
THE TECHNICAL experts met
briefly in Bahrain, and Iran and Iraq
expressed a willingness to "cooperate
to the fullest extent" in plugging the 8-
week-old leak in Iran's Nowruz field,
said Khaled Fakhro, director of the
Gulf Mutual Aid Emergency Center in
However, Iraq's representatives at
the meeting were technicians, not
political officials. They were not em-
powered to discuss a temporary cease-
fire so American oil-field
troubleshooters Red Adair and his men
could cap the two wells that have been
spewing forth an estimated 10,000
barrels a day since Iraq bombed the
field on Feb. 8.


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