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Underground methane gas discovered not far from Kentwood City Hall

Kentwood, MI
Kentwood City Hall

Methane, a combustible gas, has been discovered underground, outside the boundaries of a Kent County landfill.

The now-closed landfill is near Kentwood's City Hall. 

Dar Baas, Kent County Director of Public Works, says methane usually vents up, into the air, but in this situation, some of it is moving horizonally, under the surface.

He says there will be increased monitoring in the area.

"We did some testing at the city office," says Baas, "and everything's coming back there non-detect, which is really good news. But we want to make sure we're thorough."

Until last year, the landfill's methane was allowed to escape into the atmosphere. 

But methane is a potent greenhouse gas, so the county decided to install collection wells and flares to burn off the gas.

The system cost about $500,000, says Baas, and the county may have to spend another $300,000 to expand it.

"We need to just design and build the system bigger," says Baas, "add some additional gas wells, kind of crank up the flare system."

Baas says nowadays, Kent County has a zero-waste-to-landfill mindset.  He says the landfill in Kentwood is an unwanted legacy from the 1950's and 1960's. It was closed in the 1970's.

The county would eventually like to study if it would be cost effective to capture the methane and use it to generate electricity, but "safety comes first," says Baas. He expects new wells and piping will be installed by the end of the year.


Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.