MONROE - Making Michigan less a magnet for other states' trash comes down to money, state and local officials said at a town hall meeting last night.
"We're going to change the economy, and that's what it's all about," State Rep. Herb Kehrl (D., Monroe) said.
He hosted the meeting at Laborers International Union of North America, Local 465, to discuss House Democrats' proposed legislation to reduce the amount of out-of-state trash coming into Michigan landfills.
Michigan is the third-largest importer of trash in the country, behind Pennsylvania and Virginia.
In 2003, about 25 percent of the 20.8 million tons of trash buried in the state came from out of state, including 3.1 million tons from Canada.
"I think it's a shame they're bringing all this trash in from all the other states and Canada," Monroe resident Bonnie Doster said. "Our plains of Michigan are turning into mountains."
In addition to filling landfills, the trash creates an image problem for the state that undermines economic development opportunities, said State Rep. Kathleen Law (D., Gibraltar). She said a waste industry journal called Waste Age called Michigan a "great trash state."
About a week ago, a Canadian truck spilled human waste in Flat Rock, Mich. Berlin Township Supervisor Robert Reed said another truck carrying human waste overturned last week in his jurisdiction. He said the cleanup will cost the township about $1,000.
Potential spills are not the only problem transporting trash can cause. Mr. Reed said the roads take a beating from hundreds of trucks a day.
Michigan House Democrats want to increase the fee the state charges for dumping trash in its landfills from 21 cents to $7.50 per ton. They estimate that would raise as much as $130 million to $150 million a year, if the amount of trash coming in does not change.
Much of that money would go to local governments for recycling and enforcement expenses.
Michigan residents worry that if Ohio raises its landfill fee, Michigan will start to get more trash from Ohio.
Other Great Lakes states have much higher dumping fees than Michigan. Ohio Gov. Bob Taft wants to raise his state's fee from $2 to $4.75 a ton. Pennsylvania's fee is at least $6.25 a ton.
The proposed increase would apply to both in-state and out-of-state dumping.
In addition to increasing the dumping fee, the plan would also extend a ban on landfill expansion to 2010. The ban now is scheduled to end Jan. 1, 2006. Counties and regions could get permits exempting them from the ban.
Cities and states outside Michigan that send banned items to a Michigan landfill three times in a year would have their certification revoked. Banned items include car batteries and motor oil.
Jurisdictions that send dangerous items like blood or radioactive medical waste would be banned for a year.
Also, the plan would create civil fines of up to $5,000 for most violations, and $10,000 for repeat offenses.
Rep. Kehrl passed around a petition for the 22 people at the meeting to sign and said others could find it online at trash.housedems.com.
Asked whether he thought the bills, introduced in late February, would get out of committee, Rep. Kehrl said, "We're going to fight for it."