Wisconsin Examiner

Mount Pleasant Village President Dumps Private Waste on Public Land

Dave DeGroot skirts rules to help him and neighbors avoid hefty waste-hauling costs.

By , Wisconsin Examiner - May 7th, 2024 07:34 pm
The Mount Pleasant property where Village President Dave DeGroot had a contractor dump waste without permission. (Henry Redman | Wisconsin Examiner)

The Mount Pleasant property where Village President Dave DeGroot had a contractor dump waste without permission. (Henry Redman | Wisconsin Examiner)

The village president of Mount Pleasant is facing public criticism for using a village-owned property slated to become a public park as a dumping ground for the waste created by his homeowners association’s dredging of a pond in his neighborhood.

Residents who live near the property say the president, Dave DeGroot, has used his position to skirt permitting rules for dumping and to help him and his neighbors avoid a hefty price tag to haul the waste elsewhere.

On Monday, DeGroot announced he’s running to unseat Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer (D-Racine) in the state Legislature.

“When I was elected President of Mount Pleasant, our community was known around the state for its lack of leadership, dysfunctional board, and a challenging business climate. We turned that around,” DeGroot said in a statement. “We broke the stalemate, unified our community, and created a positive vision for our great Village. Now, we have the chance to do that in Wisconsin. As a long-time resident of the district and small business owner, I understand how challenging it is right now. Instead of playing political games, I will be focused on fixing our problems and getting things done.”

The 73-acre property is located off Highway KR, blocks from Foxconn’s orb-shaped building, adjacent to the Pike River and a multi-use pathway the village recently constructed along the water. For more than a decade, the village has used the lot to store dirt.

Kevin Rannow, who lives across the street from the property, has watched trucks hauling dirt in and out for years, including a massive project last summer when a local landfill was capped. He says he’s tolerated that truck traffic because while it’s an inconvenience for him, projects like the one at the landfill benefit the community as a whole.

But last fall, he began seeing trucks bringing “black sludge” into the property. Worried about the sludge’s effect on his private drinking well, Rannow followed one of the trucks back to where it came from — a private pond in a residential neighborhood with a state Department of Natural Resources permit posted nearby.

The sludge dumped on the Village of Mount Pleasant property. Photo Courtesy of Kathy Deverney/Wisconsin Examiner.

The sludge dumped on the Village of Mount Pleasant property. Photo Courtesy of Kathy Deverney/Wisconsin Examiner.

The DNR’s records on the permit show that DeGroot, on behalf of the Pleasant Valley Lake Association, had applied to the DNR for permission to fill in a bit of wetland as part of a project to “revitalize” the pond in the neighborhood. Last August, the DNR granted the permit.

The approval from the DNR notes that the HOA is “responsible for obtaining any other permit or approval that may be required before starting your project. These include but are limited to local zoning ordinances, shoreland zoning, floodplain zoning, DNR construction site stormwater (for land disturbances greater than an acre), and requirements by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”

On its website, the association states that the project will improve the aesthetics of the water feature, allow native plants and animals to thrive and improve the property values of homeowners around the pond. The website also states that “once sufficiently drained, the thick layer of organic matter will be trucked away to Kestrel Hawk Landfill by our partner Oakes and Sons. Removal of this material begins the process of improving the natural health of the area. That material accumulated through erosion, leaves and grass clippings, wildlife droppings, lawn care chemicals, and stormwater runoff from the neighborhood.”

A DNR analysis found that the dredged material does not contain large amounts of pollutants, however it does contain some DDE, which is what forms when the harmful pesticide DDT, which has been banned in the U.S. for decades breaks down in the environment. In large enough doses, DDE can cause negative health effects.

The problem for DeGroot and his neighbors is that Kestrel Hawk Landfill was capped before their project could begin. On Nov. 16, village staff told the association’s contractor, Oakes and Sons, that it did not have permission to dump any material from the pond dredging project on the KR property. Yet, on Nov. 24, village staff was informed that the contractor had begun dumping the dredged material on the KR property.

The village sent a letter to the contractor stating that it was illegally dumping material at the site. On Dec. 6, Mount Pleasant police went to the contractor’s offices to compel the company to cease and desist.

“This work is being illegally performed, as there is no written agreement between the Village and your company, A.W. Oakes and Sons, to access and use the property,” a Nov. 28 letter from Village Engineer Anthony Beyer states. “You are hereby ordered to remove all deposited fill from the site and immediately restore the site to its pre-disturbed condition prior to your company’s forces entering the site within 15 days from the date of this letter.”

But DeGroot’s homeowners association appealed that decision to the village’s zoning board of appeals, a five-member body that consists entirely of people appointed by DeGroot.

At the appeal hearing in January, which took place without any participation from neighbors such as Rannow who had complained about the dumping, village staff recommended that the appeal be denied.

“The village staff recommends that the Zoning Board of Appeals moves to deny the request for access to Village property for the dumping dredged materials from a private pond, based on the lack of benefit both financial and technical to the Village or its property to accept pond dredged material,” a staff memo states.

In a recording of that hearing, DeGroot, who did not return a request for comment, states that he had spearheaded the effort to get the association’s members on board with the project and have every family kick in $25,000 to pay for the cleanup of a pond that “sucks.”

In his comments, DeGroot says he’s not speaking as village president, but he complains that the village engineer — his employee — is being “insincere” by recommending the appeal be denied and that all he’s trying to do is avoid the cost that would come with paying to have the material brought somewhere else. He adds that even though it’s a private pond, the revitalization of the project has “aesthetic” value that “everybody’s gonna be really proud of.”

“Hey, we’re doing all the heavy lifting, and we’re not asking for much,” he said. “All we want to do is to be able to maintain our budget and not go over it.”

The board granted the appeal, against the recommendation of village staff, allowing DeGroot’s contractor to keep the already dumped sludge on the property and return in the spring to finish the job. The remaining muck has now been dumped, leaving what Rannow calls a “soupy mess.”

Neighbors of the village property say that if they had tons of muck to dispose of, they wouldn’t have the ability to dump it all on village-owned land.

“Clearly it’s a cost factor,” Kathy Deverney, who also lives near the property, tells the Examiner. “Mr. DeGroot said, ‘Hey I know where we can dump it.’ If in fact they didn’t pay anything, can any association that has a pond that needs to be dredged can get a permit and go dump it on that land for free? Yeah, that’s irritating. He clearly took advantage of the system, undermined the people who work for him.”

Rannow says the village should have better controls on the system so a local official can’t use it the way DeGroot has.

“[I’m] frustrated and disappointed the village had no checks in place and let their president take advantage of the situation,” he says.

Mount Pleasant village president dumps waste from private pond on public land to avoid cost was originally published by Wisconsin Examiner.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us