Hellebuyck et al v. Waste Management

Chaz StevensPolitics

March 1, 2010

[cleeng_content id=”407621328″ description=”Why stop now? It’s just getting interesting!” price=”0.99″ referral=”0.10″]The price tag on an intolerable sickening odor was nearly $19 million for Houston- based Waste Management Inc. – but most of that is dedicated to corrective action at the Lenox Township-based Pine Tree Acres Landfill.

Thirteen plaintiffs, including Frank Hellebuyck, owner of New Haven-based H&B Auto Electric Inc., filed a proposed class-action lawsuit in August on behalf of hundreds of residents and business owners with property near the landfill on 29 Mile Road.

At issue was an alleged recent increase in blowing debris, dust and odor from the 840-acre landfill.

Neighbors sued for nuisance, negligence and violations of the Michigan Environmental Protection Act.

They claim land values suffered after processing equipment at Pine Tree could no longer keep up with gaseous emissions.

The waste disposal site’s noxious emissions became really bad about four or five years ago, said David Honigman, partner at Troy-based Mantese Honigman Rossman & Williamson P.C. and lead attorney for the neighbors.

(There was an) inability of the existing plant and equipment to process the growing volume of waste and the changing character of the waste stream. As a result (of the settlement), Waste Management agreed to dramatically increase the capacity of the site to process emissions.

The lawsuit was proceeding to case evaluation before Macomb County Circuit Judge Donald Miller when the parties reached the settlement Dec. 14 for $18.76 million.

The case was formally dismissed last month.

The settlement includes a commitment to pursue in good faith an estimated $15 million in plant improvements that will boost Pine Tree Acres’ ability to convert landfill gas into electrical power.

But Tom Horton, vice president of Midwest public affairs at Waste Management, said that proposed expansion is subject to getting a power purchase agreement from a utility company for the enhanced power output.

Exclusive of the waste-to-energy plant expansion, Waste Management estimates its obligation includes around $2.2 million in other plant improvements and $750,000 to the plaintiffs and their attorneys.

  • Venue: Macomb County Circuit Court, Judge Donald Miller
  • Case filed: Aug. 18, 2009
  • Settlement: $18.76 million according to plaintiffs, $3 million according to defendants; Dec. 14, 2009
  • Plaintiffs: Frank Hellebuyck, April Heiler, Jeffrey and Marnie Ickes, Jack Domanski, Dennis Dorgosch, Dreanna and Joseph Fileccia, Don and Shelly Vavro
  • Lead counsel: David Honigman, partner, Mantese Honigman Rossman and Williamson P.C., Troy
  • Defendants: Pine Tree Acres Inc., Waste Management Inc., Waste Management of Michigan
  • Lead counsel: Steven Berry, partner, Berry Johnston Sztykiel & Hunt P.C., Zeeland