LANDFILLS: State Creates Alternative To Superfund

Cleaning closed landfills can be arduous and frustrating. Federal regulatory uncertainty, especially in relation to Superfund and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, is a constant wrench in the works.

What's a state to do? Find an alternative.

In an effort to expedite closed landfill cleanups and to eliminate legal battles, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) proposed the Minnesota Landfill Cleanup Program in 1991. By 1994, landfill-cleanup legislation was enacted and the program officially began.

An alternative to Superfund efforts, the Minnesota Landfill Cleanup Program reportedly is the first of its kind in the nation. Through an agreement between the MPCA and the EPA, the state assumes responsibility for remedial actions and long-term monitoring of qualifying sites. The state also reimburses eligible parties for their past cleanup costs. Federal sites can then be removed from the Superfund list.

To qualify for the program, a MPCA-permitted landfill must have stopped accepting mixed municipal solid waste by certain dates. Next, the party responsible for each landfill must sign a binding agreement which describes entry requirements, such as closure, with the MPCA. MPCA will then send out a Notice of Compliance to qualifying landfills.

Minnesota's cleanup program has helped to eliminate many legal issues surrounding Superfund sites. In the past, an inordinate amount of time has been spent in court deciding who should be held accountable for specific sites. By keeping landfill debates out of court, the Minnesota program pleases both the public and private sectors alike.

"The bottom line is that cleanup under the new landfill program is quicker and less costly," said Doug Day, a MPCA supervisor.

Funding for the Minnesota Landfill Cleanup Program comes from three sources: an expanded solid waste assessment fee, general obligation bonds and insurance settlements.

The Minnesota program now boasts 106 qualifying landfills. In addition, construction is underway for 14 more landfills and nine others are in the planning stages. As the program moves forward, the MPCA will continue to target high-priority landfills for cleanup.

"Minnesota really took the bull by the horns in its innovative approach to getting these sites cleaned up, and I believe other states will follow closely behind," noted Bob Beltrame, a Camp Dresser & McKee (CDM) client officer. CDM is providing design and construction management services for program landfills in Hopkins, Becker and Washington Counties.

Through its innovative approach to addressing and solving landfill cleanup problems, the Minnesota Landfill Cleanup Program has emerged as a state-of-the-art, effective alternative to Superfund.