WDNR Notice of NonCompliance

October 6, 2016

Contrary to written assurances by the "Ballpark Development Team" to the City of Franklin presented at the October 18, 2016 Common Council meeting, the excavations of the Milwaukee County Highway Department landfill for the Warror Dash obstacle race held at the Rock were violations of Wisconsin Statutes.  Here is a scan of an October 6, 2016 letter from WDNR engineer Gerald DeMers to Milwaukee County environmental engineer Stevan Keith containing a "Notice of Noncompliance" for the Warrior Dash event.

The violation is dated October 6, 2016 based on an inspection 10 days earlier.  Based on these dates it appears that the Ballpark Commons Development Team knowingly misrepresented the significance and severity of the landfill breach in the explanatory letter added to the City's official record on October 18, 2016. The Warrior Dash event and subsequent explanations of the event by the site operator demonstrate little awareness of the potential risks that the site development presents to others.

EPA Complaint

Sept. 9th, 2016

Here is a complaint made to the EPA for the proposed development of the Milwaukee County Highway Department landfill.  The complaint is based on a file review of WDNR Solid Waste and Milwaukee County environmental files and documents the history of the site and past hazardous releases.  The complaint discusses the potential dangers to residential neighbors from site development if not undertaken in an appropriate manner.  The complaint documents the necessity for a full technical review of the site.

Warrior DASH

August 13, 2016

A 5k obstacle race event occurred on the Milwaukee County Highway landfill on Saturday, August 13, 2016.  This "Warrior Dash" race was permitted by the City of Franklin but apparently was not approved by environmental engineers.  The linked photographs show deliberate pooling of water on the landfill cap.  They also show excavations to the cover layer to the landfill to create mud and water obstacles.  These excavations are almost certainly a technical breach of this closed landfill.  In fact the online race map to participants show two crossings of the Root River as a race obstacle.  This event demonstrates a severe lack of sense or sensitivity to the potential adverse consequences for residential neighbors still on groundwater and living in close proximity to the site.

Landfill Boundary Delineation

August 12, 2016

The Landfill Boundary Delineation conducted for Ballpark Commons raises more concerns with the technical feasibility of developing the Milwaukee County Highway Department landfill.  Twenty-two test pit excavations were made as part of this site examination.  In summary, the boundary delineation analysis resulted in an expansion of the known waste filled space with 12 pits revealing waste and debris beyond known limits.  The boundary delineation also revealed other concerns.  Two widely separated test pits discovered "apparent petroleum odors and petroleum affected soils."  In some cases, the report's Log of Borings revealed waste and debris immediately below top soil with no landfill cap.

The developer of the proposed Ballpark Commons represented in public presentations and planning submissions that a tournament sized indoor sports building would be constructed off the "lines of waste" or outside the "limits of waste."

This representation was contrary to published landfill maps and aerial photographs.  This updated boundary delineation makes it clear that such a representation was without merit. The availability of native soils for development pads is so limited at this location that the developer would have to bridge even small building foundations from native soils to landfill soils or construct facilities entirely on waste. Such a plan if approved and undertaken would entail severe development risks.

Preliminary Geotechnical Engineering Services

July 27, 2016

The Preliminary Geotechnical Engineering Services Report conducted for Ballpark Commons raises serious technical and engineering issues with the developer preferred site.  In summary, all five of the soil boring conducted in the waste mass as part of the preliminary geotechnical analysis encountered auger refusal due to tree waste.  These obstacles were encountered at between 26 and 31 feet and are still undergoing decay and consolidation and still creating methane gas.  Four of the five borings encountered explosive levels of methane which required rig evacuation and gas venting.  Given the amount of organic matter known and According to the report, borings "took from several days to up to 2 weeks to safely complete."  Another five soil borings were conducted outside the waste mass in native soils.  But even these borings encountered some surficial soft soils with 4 of the ten total borings suffering cave-ins.  Two cave-ins occurred outside the waste mass. The geotechnical analysis also discovered perched water "trapped within the existing fill materials."  Based on a close review of the Log of Borings and the extensive findings of moisture in materials in the waste mass it would appear that the landfill cap has failed or is underperforming.

Other information contained in the preliminary geotechnical is also concerning.  The report makes it clear that "the large indoor sports complex was eliminated from the development."  But this developer modification was not reflected in any prior feasibility or economic activity study used by the City to estimate ancillary business such as hospitality demand.  The developer now apparently plans replacement of this large tournament sized regional draw building with smaller "potential golf and indoor recreation." Consulting engineers also raise a series of cautionary notes in their analysis.  For the berms constructed around the stadium, engineers report the "magnitude of settlement" could be "highly variable, with the potential to be excessive."  Engineers also caution that "foundations placed upon the existing landfill materials will potentially be subject to excessive overall and differential settlement."  Finally, in regard to City TID funded roads and parking lots, engineers caution there is a "risk of consolidation/settlement of the existing fill soils, along with reduced pavement performance and a reduced service life, with the need for increased maintenance throughout the pavement's life.  Ironically, excessive settlement, unsuitable soils and discovered contaminants cause significant cost over-runs in other stadium or adaptive landfill reuse projects the developer identified as comparable to Franklin.

Milwaukee County Highway / Crystal Ridge Landfill

March 7, 2016

Here is an aerial map prepared by Milwaukee County that shows the development site north of Rawson Avenue and shows the landfill infrastructure.  This is important information for several reasons.  First, a close examination of the illustration indicates that the fill site is actually a series of quarry pits or landfills.  Each area has its own history and characteristics.  Second, the aerial shows the complexity and extent of the waste gas and hazard monitoring system.  Third, the aerial indicates just how close fill contents are to private drinking wells.  And, finally, the site plan shows how the developer renderings used to build public support could never be constructed as marketed.  This misrepresentation by the developer extends to the submissions made to City planners.  The amended renderings dated March 7, 2016 still show the proposed albeit now smaller indoor sports facility on fill contents.  But the developer has left the door open for “two or more separate buildings”.  This latest plan is far different than the original concept used to “sell” the plan to Franklin citizens, elected officials and the media.

Marso Memorandum

March 4, 2016

Here are notes from the Ballpark Commons developer showing that the geotechnical analysis required for the project contemplates the drilling of boreholes through the landfill and the bottom of the fill site.  The developer is also requesting permission to relocate potentially hazardous fill contents.  Again, this requires the landfill closure plan to be modified.  Why would Milwaukee County agree to either of these requests when it has no commercial liability insurance carrier?  The only reason to do so is financial.  How can these actions be in the best long term interests of County taxpayers and protect the safety of residential neighbors?

Sample Sound Study

July 17, 2015

A sound study for the recently constructed minor league baseball stadium in Columbia, South Carolina is included here to help the surrounding community understand the sound contours anticipated for the Franklin site.  Separately, an email to the City’s Economic Development Director is provided describing the site difficulties for managing the sound contours.  The developer writes “[o]ur analysis and research suggest that the Ballpark Commons development would not create a compounding issue of light and noise.”  In response, we simply ask one question.  What analysis and research?  The characteristics of the landfill and current operating history have already demonstrated that sound cannot be successfully managed at this site.

Knoll Letter

March 31, 2014

Here is a letter from Robert and Naomi Knoll discussing the intrusion of methane in their home.  The changes now proposed to the waste gas system and the scope of the development put all nearby residential homes at risk of a new event.  Future changes required to the waste gas system will be to accommodate development and will not be for best practices of the operation of this closed landfill.  The developer’s planning submission to “[r]edesign and re-program the indoor sports complex from its original design such that is resides off the lines of waste”, is already contradicted by developer notes requesting that the WDNR “allow on-site relocation of waste”.  And a developer discussion of the use of “lightweight” and “minimal landfill penetrating” strategies while disturbing potentially hazardous waste and drilling bore holes through the bottom of the fill site is nonsensical.


December 21, 1995

In summary, this study of the Milwaukee County Highway landfill reported that two known carcinogens were detected at the waste gas flare inlet in levels exceeding the regulatory limits.  Exceedances were reported for ethylene oxide and PCBs.  The existence of PCBs are especially noteworthy because one by-product of incomplete PCB combustion is dioxins.  The waste gas flare does not operate at a temperature sufficient to combust PCBs. 


October 9, 1985

Here is just a sample of correspondence between the WDNR and Milwaukee County for past environmental releases.   These letters show serious violations of environmental standards and Federal and State requirements.  A full review of all correspondence would indicate that the County showed significantly more regard for the health of County finances than the consequences of its actions on nearby neighbors.  Now the County is back in the business of cashing in on the landfill site as a co-applicant in the development of Ballpark Commons.  To date, they have shown little regard for how their past actions make this development site potentially dangerous for residential neighbors.  They have not even followed the requirements of their own due diligence ordinance that requires the conduct of environmental studies.  The plan to punch holes through the bottom of the fill site and move landfill contents which are potentially hazardous are not consistent with good management of closed landfill sites.  Based on the hazards described in past environmental releases residents could again be exposed to releases of heavy metals, VOCs (Volatile Organic Compound) and other carcinogens through ground water.  But as importantly, all potential users of the Rock and Ballpark Commons, if entitled, should want to know the volume of PCBs, VOCs, ethylene oxide and benzene emitted through the air at the site.  The emission of methane to the atmosphere also has consequences.  Methane emitted passively acts as a carrier of these carcinogens as byproducts that also get released to the air.

1976 NEWS ARTICLE - Franklin Area Fears DuMP POSES DANGER

July 15, 1976

City of Franklin officials and the development group have publicly discussed methane incidents from the 1990s but make no mention of prior events in their public presentations or development submittals.  (See Amended PDD/GDP Submittal p.7 or listen to the presentation by the City Planner and Economic Development official at the January 11, 2016 developer presentation). This demonstrates a lack of City and developer diligence on the site or the proposal.  What elected officials and the developer have not acknowledged publicly is that the first methane ignition at the Franklin site actually occurred in 1974.  Here is a news article of that 1974 incident.  There are two items of note in the article.  First, the City did not stop permitting the construction of homes along the landfill even when they became aware of the danger; and, second, a City official is quoted as saying, “As far as we’re concerned, the problem has been taken care of”.  Simple economics drove City actions in the past and appear to be doing so again with Ballpark Commons.