Jackson County Airport officials tackle landfill issue

AS $20 million safety project moves forward

Lisa Satayut| Lsatayut@mlive.com

By Lisa Satayut| Lsatayut@mlive.com

on February 13, 2013 at 8:00 AM, updated February 13, 2013 at 8:09 AM

JACKSON, MI – As construction on the $20 million Jackson County Airport safety project moves forward, airport officials are trying to find a way to safely relocate part of an old city landfill that is located on the grounds.
Parts of the landfill currently sit where the future runway and taxiway is scheduled to be constructed and landfill soils won’t be able to handle the weight from the concrete, Jackson County Airport Manager Kent Maurer said.
Not the entire landfill will have to be relocated, just the area that sits where the future runway will be constructed.

“We don’t plan on disturbing all of it, only the part that is needed to construct the runway,” he said.
About 170,000 cubic yards would have to be excavated. It would be relocated to the area of the landfill that will not be disturbed.
This is an issue airport officials knew would arise. But, the project won’t be easy due to environmental concerns, officials said. And, there are no records of what was disposed of in the landfill that closed in the early 1970’s.
“There is no record of what was put in there,” Maurer said. He said it looks like household rubbish and industrial waste could have been accepted at the landfill. As far as Maurer knows, it was constructed in the 1950’s or early 1960’s.

“It operated for probably close to 15 or 20 years. There were almost no regulations back then,” Maurer said.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will have to approve a conceptual plan before moving forward with the relocation.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners approved a contract with Envirologic in the amount of $24,800 to research and design the conceptual plan. Maurer said Envirologic is a popular company and has been hired by the county in the past for Brownfield projects.

According to a Dec. 14, 2012 letter addressed to Maurer from David Warwick, the vice president for Envirologic, the relocation could be completed by July 1, if there are no bumps in the road.
The landfill would have to be relocated by 2014 for the entire project to be completed on time. Construction on the last runway is expected to begin in 2015 but the completion of the project is a “moving target” and depends on various factors.
The safety project is a high priority for the county board and it has been dubbed the largest public improvement project in Jackson County history.

If the plan is not approved by the DEQ, the landfill could have to be excavated and trucked to an operating landfill. This won’t be cheap. Maurer said the cost to relocate it, as opposed to trucking off-site is about 80 percent less.
He does not have exact numbers or estimates but said that will be determined through the conceptual design.
Maurer said he has had informal discussions with DEQ officials about the project and he has received “positive” feedback.

“We would like to get a more formal acceptance before we invest time and money,” he said.
The funds were budgeted for and came from Runway 7-25 Public Improvement Funds. There is about $230,000 left in this fund.
In total, there were 24 property easements/acquisitions that had to be completed before the project could move forward.

The complete safety project consists of two components: the extension of one runway from 3,500 feet to 4,000 feet and the installation of safety areas at each end of the runway. This was completed in 2008.
The next component, the larger of the two, requires an existing runway to be demolished and replaced with a longer runway. This is scheduled for 2015. The longer runway, which will be almost one mile long, must have 1,000 feet of safety area at each end. Both runways will be 100 feet wide.

When the project is done, the runway will meet Federal Aviation Administration standards — something it has failed to do since it was built in 1942.
Maurer said the FAA acknowledged the runway did not meet standards for safety areas — which are required to give planes sufficient area to stop in case of an emergency but gave the airport an exemption to use it anyway.

There are about 110 planes that use the Jackson County Airport, ranging from “home-built single-sector crafts to small corporate jets.

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