KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — Some residents are on edge after learning a potentially dangerous methane gas is seeping outside the borders of the old Kentwood Landfill.
The landfill on Walma Avenue SE south of 44th Street looks like a grass-covered field now, but a barbed-wire fence and sign warning of “buried refuse” suggest the 45 acres aren’t as pristine as they appear. Underneath is years of garbage.
“Probably old cars,” Kent County Department of Public Works Director Darwin Baas said. “There’s likely some industrial waste and a lot of just rubbish and trash.”
Public Works has been managing the site since the landfill closed in the 1970s, Baas said. It’s still an active site because of the methane it produces. It’s normal for methane to form in landfills, and it’s usually not a problem — the gas is non-toxic and dissipates quickly in open areas.
Monday, Baas gave 24 Hour News 8 a tour of the landfill and the 11 wells in place outside the perimeter to monitor the methane.
“When we began to take a look at the landfill gas migration, we didn’t realize it was outside the landfill itself, outside the fence,” he said.
Officials are looking into ways to stop the methane from spreading and expect to implement a plan before the start of September. In the interim, they’re increasing their monitoring.
The problem is that methane can be flammable when confined to enclosed spaces — like the Kentwood Library, which is just feet from the landfill.
There’s concern about methane spreading into that and other neighboring buildings, like the nearby homes of about 150 residents. So far, methane hasn’t been found inside any of the buildings. The county is installing detection equipment in those buildings to keep an eye on things.
“I’ve never heard anything about that landfill. This is the first time I’ve heard about it,” one of those residents, Josh Utley, said. “I feel like it’s an important enough matter that everyone in the area should know about it.”
Most 24 Hour News spoke with didn’t know about the landfill or the methane, including the Jozwiaks, a family of four who were out for a stroll not far from the site on Monday.
“It still concerns me since we live like a mile away from there,” resident Megan Jozwiak said.
“At least if you know that it’s a safe gas, you’d be OK,” added Danny Jozwiak.
Nearby residents will be notified of the situation in the coming days. Those who live within 1,500 feet of the western side of the landfill will be able to request free on-site testing. They’ll get more information on arranging testing soon.
The county is holding a question and answer session on Wednesday, Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. at Kentwood City Hall on Breton Avenue so members of the public can learn more about the situation. Anyone with questions can contact the Department of Public Works at 616.632.7920.