MPCA hears comments in Burnsville 

The height of a proposed expansion of the Burnsville Sanitary Landfill continues to worry some residents in Bloomington and Burnsville.

The height of the alleged “garbage mountain” that would remain when the expanded landfill reaches its capacity was a frequent target of some of the dozens who attended a public meeting on the project July 10 at Burnsville City Hall.

Landfill owner Waste Management is seeking permission to add 26 million cubic yards of municipal solid waste capacity to the landfill, which is south of the Minnesota River and west of the Kraemer Mining and Materials limestone pit west of Interstate 35W.

Though the landfill’s footprint would actually shrink from 216 acres to 204, the maximum height from ground level would rise from 104 feet to 372 when capacity is reached.

“You’re looking at million dollar homes” on the bluff across the river in Bloomington, said Rachel Merrifield, one of the speakers at the meeting held by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. “I’m assuming if now they’re going to be staring at a garbage mountain, the value of their house would significantly decrease.”

“To look at it, or to look at it from Bloomington, it’s going to be just one hideous hill,” Burnsville resident Chuck LeTourneau said. Citing heights of various landmarks, he said the landfill would be comparable to a Vikings stadium behind Menards on Highway 13.

The meeting was part of the MPCA’s process for preparing a supplemental environmental impact statement on the expansion. The public was invited to give comments to help shape the scope of the environmental study.

Concerns about the landfill height — which led Bloomington officials to post alleged visual representations of the impact on the city website — emerged earlier this year. Burnsville City Council Member Dan Kealey responded with his own computer renderings showing a far less obtrusive and noticeable hill.

In March the Burnsville council voted unanimously for concept-stage approval of the expansion. It was a nonbinding first step in a long process that requires the MPCA’s certification that the expansion is needed, a host of other agency approvals and final city approval.

State Sen. Jim Carlson, an Eagan DFLer whose district includes the landfill, asked the MPCA to consider the expansion request as part of a larger solution for cleaning up the old Freeway Landfill and Freeway Dump that straddle I-35W in Burnsville.

The MPCA has for years sought to enter the properties into its Closed Landfill Program and met resistance from owner the McGowan family. When mining in the Kraemer quarry ends years from now and the company quits pumping out groundwater, it will rise into the garbage in the unlined Freeway properties and threaten drinking water in Burnsville and Savage, MPCA and Burnsville officials say.

Burnsville officials have endorsed a plan under which Kraemer would buy the landfill properties, move their 6 million tons of waste to the expanded Waste Management landfill and mine limestone from the empty Freeway Landfill property.

The MPCA has been a party to those discussions and is also studying its own plans for building a new lined landfill on the Freeway Landfill property and relocating the garbage there. City officials and the McGowans say that would preclude development on most of the property, prized for its location next to a freeway.

Carlson also asked the MPCA to study whether expanded recycling and new technologies might reduce the flow of garbage and lengthen the estimated 43-year life of the expanded landfill.

Burnsville Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Harmening echoed his request that the expansion be considered as part of a grand solution for Burnsville’s landfills. Consolidating the number of sites at the city’s northern entrance from three to one “seems like a win-win to us environmentally,” Harmening said.

State Rep. Sandra Masin, another Eagan DFLer whose district includes the landfill, said she wants the MPCA to study environmental risks expansion poses to the river and whether landfilling has already damaged it.

In 50 or 100 years, how are people “going to feel about us going ahead and expanding something when we know it shouldn’t have been there in the first place?” Masin asked.

Waste Management is seeking to convert 4.1 million cubic yards of space now permitted for industrial waste to municipal solid waste and add another 22 million cubic yards for MSW. Total landfill capacity would grow from a currently permitted 25.4 million cubic yards to approximately 47 million.

Waste Management estimates the landfill would take more than a century to fill under current permitting, which includes industrial and demolition-construction waste. Meanwhile, the landfill is quickly filling its allotted MSW space and has begun trucking the common household waste to out-of-state landfills.

The MPCA last did an environmental impact study on the landfill in 2005, when it sought a previous expansion.

As it did then, the agency will study groundwater impacts, air quality impacts, no-build alternatives, sociological impacts, economic impacts and mitigation measures.

This time, the agency says it’s adding visual impacts, greenhouse gas impacts and surface water impacts.

Despite the added capacity, Waste Management says an expanded landfill would produce less leachate than the currently permitted landfill could produce and affect about one acre less of wetlands.

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