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Special Report: Landfills

Minnesota Closed Landfill Program Tackles Latest Agreement

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has recently come to an agreement on the 109th closed landfill to enter into its Closed Landfill Program (CLP), a voluntary program established by the Minnesota Legislature in 1994 to properly close, monitor, and maintain Minnesota's closed municipal sanitary landfills.

The Freeway Landfill in Burnsville, Minn., the largest in the CLP, is 150-acre parcel is bounded on the north by the Minnesota River. The facility accepted waste from 1969 to 1990.

“With the Freeway Landfill, we now have the agreement principle,” says Kirk Koudelka, assistant commissioner of land policy and strategic initiatives for the ‎MPCA. “Once all of the land and legal documents are signed, the state will do an additional investigation into plans for the cleanup.”

Bordered on the southern edge by the Kraemer Quarry, which is still in use, the Freeway Landfill cleanup faces some unique challenges.

“To do their work (Kraemer’s Quarry) has lowered the groundwater there and altered the flow for the mining. As a result, the water would flow from the south to north.”

It’s a large pump-and-treat system, so when the quarry closes and the water stops pumping, the waste will be in water and the groundwater flow will have waste in contact with the groundwater and into the Minnesota River, he says.

To minimize the risk, the CLP will build a lined facility on the site and put the waste on that lined facility.

“It is the most cost-effective solution that protects human health and the environment,” Koudelka says.

The Freeway Landfill agreement should be finalized by the end of the month.

According to the CLP website, the group manages the risk to public health and safety in a cyclical fashion referred to as the “Risk Management Cycle.” First, site information pertinent to understanding the risks at each landfill (monitoring groundwater, methane gas, nearby land use) is collected and stored in a database.

Second, the CLP evaluates the information, identifies the risks at each site and determines each site’s numerical risk using a risk-scoring model, and identifies the most practical response actions needed to lower the risk.

Third, response actions are implemented based on several factors, including risk-score ranking, available resources (funds, staff), other required site work (operation and maintenance, land surveys, repairs), and other initiatives that are MPCA and program priorities (e.g., renewable energy).

Fourth, the response actions implemented are measured for effectiveness and the monitoring of site conditions is continued.

Funding to do this work comes from the MPCA’s Remediation Fund (solid waste management tax), state general obligation bonds, and past settlements with insurance carriers that provided landfill-related insurance coverage, the website said.

The CLP is an alternative to Superfund for cleaning up and maintaining closed landfills, and was the first such program in the nation. The CLP is unique because it is the only program that gives the MPCA the responsibility to “manage” up to 113 closed, state-permitted, mixed municipal solid waste landfills to mitigate risks to the public and the environment.

“In Superfund there maybe is one, two or three or a handful of responsible parties that have to come up with a plan and do the cleanup under the supervision of the state or federal government,” Koudelka says. “The perfect case they work well together and do the cleanup. In other cases they dispute who is more responsible than the other and costs or amount of work to be done. In the case of a landfill that’s magnified greatly. We’re now talking about hundreds of potential responsible parties.”


The result was delayed legal actions and administrative procedures. In the meantime, nothing was getting cleaned up.

“Minnesota realized that closed landfills are everyone’s responsibility. Everyone contributed to them so it’s their responsibility to clean them up,” says Koudelka.

Minnesota Statute 115B.39 outlines what landfills are eligible for the CLP, including:

  • "Qualified facility" means a mixed municipal solid waste disposal facility as described in the most recent agency permit, including adjacent property used for solid waste disposal that did not occur under a permit from the agency, that:
  • is or was permitted by the agency;
  • stopped accepting solid waste, except demolition debris, for disposal by April 9, 1994; and
  • stopped accepting demolition debris for disposal by June 1, 1994, except that demolition debris may be accepted until May 1, 1995, at a permitted area where disposal of demolition debris is allowed, if the area where the demolition debris is deposited is at least 50 feet from the fill boundary of the area where mixed municipal solid waste was deposited; or
  • is or was permitted by the agency; and
  • stopped accepting waste by January 1, 2000, except that demolition debris, industrial waste, and municipal solid waste combustor ash may be accepted until January 1, 2001, at a permitted area where disposal of such waste is allowed, if the area where the waste is deposited is at least 50 feet from the fill boundary of the area where mixed municipal solid waste was deposited; or
  • stopped accepting waste by January 1, 2019, and is located in a county that meets all applicable recycling goals in section 115A.551 and that has arranged for all mixed municipal solid waste generated in the county to be delivered to and processed by a resource recovery facility located in the county for at least 20 years.
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