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Water Industry News

Shipment of Canadian crap raises stink in Michigan

By Jeff Gray

March 24, 2005

A truck carrying 31 tons of Toronto sewage sludge skidded to a halt yesterday in Flat Rock, Mich., spilling enough of its load to create a two and one-half feet deep mess along an entire city block.

Although the spill was cleaned up within the day, it added to the political stink in Michigan over the shipment of waste from Canada.

At about 6 a.m., police said, an open-top tractor-trailer bound for a Michigan landfill braked suddenly, leaving 20-metre skid marks and sloshing thousands of gallons of sludge onto Flat Rock's main street.

For much of the day, the smelly mess shut down two lanes of Telegraph Road -- a busy thoroughfare flanked by businesses and a seniors' center -- as hazardous-material crews, dressed in yellow protective gear and using a Bobcat, cleaned up the sludge.

"It just stunk horribly bad," said mechanic Brandon Taechens, who works at a garage close to the spill in the town of about 8,500 people that is 15 miles south of Detroit.

Flat Rock Police Chief Steve Tallman said the cold weather kept down the smell. "I'm just glad this wasn't June or July."

Chief Tallman said the driver of the sludge truck took off after the spill, but police in nearby Huron Township arrested him after he ran off the road again.

"Either he fell asleep at the wheel and woke up real suddenly or he ran a red light," the chief said. "When he slammed on his brakes, his load decided to go forward."

He identified the man as Kananathan Kanpiah of Toronto, who was charged with spilling on a public highway. Police impounded the truck to force the company, identified as Warren Transport, to pay what Chief Tallman estimated would be the $10,000 cost of cleaning up the sludge.

Politicians in Michigan fighting waste shipments from Canada seized on the incident, holding a news conference in Lansing, the state capital, to repeat calls for new dumping fees to stop out-of-state garbage imports.

Chief Tallman said that in addition to calls from local television stations, he fielded several from state politicians, including Democratic Representative Kathleen Law, who has long opposed Toronto's shipments to the Carleton Farms landfill that is in her district, as well as garbage imports from other states.

"There's 14 inches of poop, in my district," Ms. Law said yesterday in a phone interview from Lansing. ". . . This is just a bad import to Michigan."

She said she did not want to think about how the truck driver could have carried on after a giant wave of sludge washed over his cab: "No amount of windshield fluid would do it for me."

State House Democratic spokesman Dan Farough said the spill was all over talk radio in the state, and acknowledged it would help refocus public concern on Canadian waste shipments.

Chief Tallman said he often gets complaints from people in town about the steady parade of trash and sludge trucks headed for the landfill. "Nothing against Toronto or Canada, but I just wish you guys would keep your trash. We have enough of our own."

Lou Di Gironimo, Toronto's director of wastewater treatment, confirmed that the truck is one of about 20 sludge haulers that take loads from the city's Ashbridges Bay treatment plant each day.

He said that the truck, run by a subcontractor hired by Terratec Environmental Ltd., was carrying 31 tons of treated human waste, called biosolids. He said the trucking company, not the city, would have to cover the clean-up costs.

"Spills are common when you are carrying any material," he said