The Gloves Stay On

IN MARCH, OFFICIALS at the local, state and federal levels took action in the ongoing saga of Canadian trash imports to Michigan. But how far any of the measures will go remains to be seen.

On the state front, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed legislation that would prohibit international trash from being transported into the state. Implementation of the law, however, is contingent on passage of bills (H.R. 593, H.R. 2109 and S. 346) pending in Congress that would amend the Solid Waste Disposal Act to prevent other countries from importing trash without first obtaining a state's approval.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., “together with members of our U.S. House delegation, are fighting hard for us on this issue in Congress, but leadership in Washington has failed to act,” Granholm said in a public statement. “Until they do, limiting the amount of landfill space and making it less cost-effective to ship trash into Michigan are some common steps we can take.”

At the federal level, the Senate has approved a budget plan that includes a provision from Stabenow and Levin that would “lay the groundwork for the United States to charge up to $45 million a year in inspection fees to Canadian trash truck companies,” according to the senators' press offices.

In late February, the Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General released a summary of a classified report calling for a set of standards that would guide the inspection of trash coming across the border into the United States. Stabenow, Levin and U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., originally pushed for the report in 2003, citing security concerns. “Michigan's taxpayers should not shoulder the costs of inspecting trash that we don't want sent here in the first place,” Stabenow said in a public statement.

In the meantime, Macomb County, Mich., has taken the issue of imported trash into its own hands. The county has worked out a tentative agreement with Waste Management, which operates Pine Tree Acres, the state's busiest landfill, according to a report in the Macomb Daily. Under the agreement, Canadian trash would be limited to 25 percent of the landfill's total capacity. Currently, approximately 80 percent of trash coming into the landfill is imported from Canada.

The county Board of Commissioners, however, is divided on the issue and has scheduled a special meeting for April 11. While the agreement reduces the percentage of Canadian trash that eventually will be landfilled at Pine Tree Acres, it does so over a 25-year-period and expands the landfill space from the current 565 acres to 755 acres, creating concern that international shipments will not slow in the near term.

And finally, fueling opposition to trash imports, in early March a Canadian truck spilled 35 tons of human waste, shutting down an interstate overpass in Huron Township. Stabenow included information on the spill in her March 3 podcast about fighting Canadian trash imports into the state.