Street Talk

Street Talk: County moves to halt spread of methane

Economics 101.

August 11, 2017
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The Kent County Department of Public Works discovered a migration of methane gas to the west of the Kentwood Landfill during routine monitoring in 2016.

The landfill was closed in 1976, though methane continuously emits from the site because of decomposing waste. Kent County conducts regular monitoring of methane in the air and installed a series of collection wells and a flare to contain methane on-site and limit migration.

The 2016 monitoring of the site made it clear that more wells and flares would have to be installed to contain the gas.

The city and county have been continuously monitoring the air quality of city buildings on the west side of the landfill since August 2016. Located west of the landfill are the Kentwood City Center, Kent District Library-Kentwood branch and City of Kentwood Public Works Center.

“Testing has consistently shown that the methane is not entering the buildings,” DPW Director Darwin Baas said. “Public safety continues to be our priority, and we will continue monitoring for methane indefinitely.”

The DPW also contracted with Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber Inc., a private environmental engineering firm, to provide free testing in any of the 150 homes west of the landfill.

To increase the effectiveness of the existing gas collection system, additional collection wells will be installed in nine locations along the west edge of the landfill. Seven additional gas-monitoring probes also will be installed west of the landfill, and a second flare will be installed next to the existing flare southeast of the library. The project is scheduled to be completed in early October.

The county contracted Catskill Remedial Contracting Services for piping and flare installation, and Golder Associates will be conducting quality control on installation.

The DPW received help and guidance from the Department of Environmental Quality in Grand Rapids and from the Environmental Protection Agency in mitigating the migration of gas from the landfill.

“The DEQ and EPA have helped by virtue of their involvement in the site,” said Molly Sherwood, DPW environmental compliance manager. “They’ve been very involved with the development of our plan and are very supportive of us completing this work.”

The county has a separate fund for maintenance of the landfill, but it didn’t contain enough to meet all of the expenses for the project. Engineering and design work for the new systems cost the county about $1 million, and another $1 million will be spent on installation. Sherwood said the expenses would be paid for in part by the county’s solid waste surcharge, which is paid by county residents for the service of hauling and disposing of solid waste. The surcharge was implemented in January 2015.

Trailblazers

Last year, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital completed the first phase of a construction project that made it the fifth-largest rehab hospital in the country. Now, it can officially add “teaching hospital” to its résumé.

The Grand Rapids hospital introduced its inaugural residency class, comprised of four physicians from various corners of the country.

Mary Free Bed announced the physical medicine and rehabilitation program, its first residency, last year. The three-year residency covers clinical, educational and research opportunities in PM&R, including spinal cord and brain injuries, amputation, pediatrics and cancer.

“This inaugural class of residents will continue to shape Mary Free Bed as an innovative, academic institution,” program co-director Kelly Armstrong said.

Structured to accommodate four residents per year, the hospital will have 12 full-time physicians by 2019.

The inaugural class:

  • Jason Coombs, a Touro University California grad, completed a surgical internship at Wright State University and went on to serve as a flight surgeon for the Air Force. He will continue his military service at Selfridge Air National Guard in Macomb County.
  • Thomas Hordt, a med school graduate from St. George's University in the West Indies. Hordt completed his first postgrad year in internal medicine at Flushing Hospital in Queens and is a member of the New York Society of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
  • Christopher Meadows, a graduate of the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. Meadows recently completed an internship at the University of Arizona.
  • Anthony Truong, a med school graduate from the University of Kansas. He completed two years of an obstetrics and gynecology residency at Ochsner Health System in New Orleans.

Higher (cost) ed

With the fall semester coming up, West Michigan’s two largest universities are planning tuition increases.

Grand Valley State University said last month that it set its fiscal year 2018 budget, and it includes a $237 per semester increase in tuition, bringing annual tuition to $11,994 for a full-time undergraduate Michigan resident.

Its tuition rate for those with zero to 54 credits earned now is $498 per credit hour for 1-11 credits and for each credit hour over 15. For those who have earned 55 or more credits, the cost will be $525 per credit hour for 1-11 credits and for each credit hour over 15.

“The university achieves high performance while still keeping tuition lower than the majority of other public universities in the state,” said John Kennedy, chair of the GVSU Board of Trustees. “Students are graduating and employers are recognizing their talent. They’re staying in Michigan and giving back to their communities.”

GVSU President Thomas J. Haas noted the university boosts financial aid each time it increases tuition.

“Education is a public good, and by making it affordable and accessible to more people, who in turn contribute to the health of our state, we change our collective futures,” Haas said. “Grand Valley is absolutely committed to these principles, and we back up the commitment by increasing financial aid each year so more of our students get the financial help they need to earn their degree.”

The university is expected to receive $70.1 million in state funding for FY 2019, some of which is awarded to GVSU based on performance in key areas such as retention and graduation rates.

Western Michigan University plans a maximum increase. At its June 29 Board of Trustees meeting, WMU opted to raise tuition for 2017-18 the highest amount recommended by this year’s state guidelines.

The increase of $475 per semester is just within the state’s tuition restraint request for this year, said Jan Van Der Kley, vice president for business and finance.

The state asked tuition increases at Michigan public universities this year be no more than 3.8 percent, or $475, whichever is greater. WMU’s planned tuition increase equates to a 3.91 percent increase over its 2016-17 undergraduate tuition and fees.

“It’s a balancing act to ensure we manage and allocate financial resources to meet the goals and priorities set forth in the university’s strategic plan,” Van Der Kley said.

Full-time junior and senior resident undergraduate students’ annual tuition and fees beginning this fall will be $13,097.

Tuition rates for resident graduate students will increase by 7.5 percent to $596.25 per credit hour.

Nonresident graduate tuition rates will increase by 2.5 percent to $1,204.17 per credit hour.

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