Landfill lamentations

(First published in the July 26, 2018 issue of City Pages)

Mosinee paper mill Expera wants to expand its landfill for paper waste, but residents are concerned about the potential for environmental contamination


Mosinee residents are concerned about Expera’s proposed new landfill built in an area where the groundwater and bedrock levels are unusually high, and near a quarry that often shakes the ground with blasting.

Dozens of Mosinee residents packed the Marathon County Public Library’s Mosinee branch last week for a public hearing on a proposed landfill expansion on paper company Expera’s property. Their chief concern: the potential for environmental contamination.

Several residents spoke at the July 19 meeting and some afterward spoke of gathering a petition against the expansion, which would accept paper mill waste, waste water treatment sludge and boiler ash from the Mosinee paper mill, and also take similar waste from the Rhinelander facility.

The new landfill would be 15.9 acres—a new “cell” in Expera’s existing solid waste disposal facility. It would be accessed by the mill’s entrance at 100 Main St. in Mosinee, and involve about a mile of internal roads on Expera’s land.

Residents at the meeting say they’re concerned about the landfill’s lining staying intact. Several said that they regularly feel the ground shake from nearby quarry blasts, and doubted a lining around the landfill would survive that kind of shock.

They also worry about the landfill being less than 10 feet from groundwater and from bedrock. Ten feet is the minimum distance per DNR regulations, requiring Expera to request a variance.

“When they [the quarry] blast, my knick-knacks fall off the wall,” says Marie Swita of Mosinee, who says she lives right across from the proposed landfill site. “I feel the blast three miles away. This liner won’t crack? Really?”

Really, says Michael Ruetten, Vice President of GEI Consultants. His team measured the seismological activity from the quarry blasts and found it’s not the kind that would damage to the liner. He pointed out that of all the people talking about the quarry shaking their house, none mentioned cracks in their foundation.

And the reason the landfill will be less than 10 feet from the groundwater or bedrock is because the company is planning for a larger-than-typical liner—a two-foot-thick clay liner to ensure water doesn’t leach out, says Andy Cychosz, environmental engineer for Expera. Furthermore, both the groundwater level and bedrock in that area is quite high.

The DNR will review the public comments and those submitted in writing and will issue a decision within 60 days of Thursday’s hearing, says DNR Attorney Supervisor Cheryl Heilman. The DNR will accept written comments about the landfill through July 30.

Meanwhile, Expera announced this week that the company was sold to Finnish firm Ahlstrom-Munksjo.