City approves recycling, discusses Cliffs Dow

Pictured is a city-owned leaf compost and rubbish drop-off site at the former Cliffs-Dow property on Wright Street and Lakeshore Boulevard in Marquette. (Photo by The Mining Journal)

Published in The Mining Journal on May 1, 2019

MARQUETTE — The Marquette City Commission passed a resolution Monday supporting efforts of the Marquette County Solid Waste Management Authority to switch the county’s recycling program from a dual-stream system to a single-stream one.

The authority oversees the Marquette County Landfill, which serves residents of 22 constituent municipalities in the county. It does not currently recycle glass and uses a dual-stream recycling system that requires rigid and fiber materials to be separated and picked up on alternating weeks.

The proposed single-stream system would allow both material types to be picked up weekly, as well as glass, which would be repurposed for projects, officials said.

The move to single-stream recycling is anticipated to cost around $5.9 million as new equipment would be needed to handle the process.

The MCSWMA is pursuing a millage request on the Aug. 6 ballot for county residents to support a 0.1-mill levy for 10 years. The proposed millage would levy 0.1 mill, or 10 cents per $1,000 of taxable value, on real and tangible personal property within Marquette County from 2019 to 2029. It is estimated it would generate around $300,000 the first year. A household with $150,000 of taxable real and tangible personal property would pay $15 a year if the millage is approved.

If the millage is approved, it’s expected that there will be no tipping fee for Marquette County recycling and a $25 fee per ton for any recycling allowed from out of the county, said MCSWMA Chairman Randall Yelle.

Only 8 percent of the county currently recycles, Yelle said, and a single-stream system could increase participation since it’s an easier process.

If the millage were to pass, MCSWMA Director Brad Austin said other funding has been considered through the Closed Loop Fund, which offers 0% interest loans to municipalities, and grants from the state. Another option would be to increase tipping fees if the millage isn’t placed on the ballot and passed.

City Commissioner Dave Campana said he believes a tipping fee increase would be the best route to go.

“I don’t like the idea of a millage, I think it should be a tipping fee increase because I think that’s the fairest to all the citizens of the county of Marquette,” he said.

The commission also decided to form a three-person subcommittee, consisting of Mayor Fred Stonehouse and two commissioners to be determined, to evaluate proposals and make a recommendation regarding the Cliffs-Dow property as two developers have recently expressed interest in the land.

The intent of the group will be to bring its recommendation back to the city commission as a whole for its consideration no later than Oct. 29.

Per the city’s community master plan, the parcel has been identified as a mixed-use site. The property is also part of an existing brownfield project, officials said previously, and it is likely that the city and future investors would seek to amend the plan to encompass the Lakeshore Boulevard relocation project, which would permit the use of tax-captured funds for infrastructure improvements. The estimated cost of that project is around $12 million.

In the early 1900s, Cleveland Cliffs Iron Co. developed the property and produced pig iron at the site for about 30 years. The Dow Chemical Co. joined with the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Co., forming Cliffs-Dow Chemical Co. in April 1935. Charcoal and wood chemical derivatives were produced until the property was sold to Georgia-Pacific in 1968.

The property sat idle until the city purchased about 77 acres of the tract in 1997 for $1 and sold off parcels on the north and south ends, leaving the current 46 acres.

The Cliffs-Dow site was on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund list from 1983 until 2000 because the contaminated property contained hazardous waste. The site’s long-term remedy included excavation, treatment and disposal of contaminated fill material from the landfill, and monitored natural attenuation of the groundwater. Subsequent samples taken at the site show that remaining groundwater contamination does not pose an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment, according to the EPA’s website.