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Residents criticize Burnsville landfill plans as environmental review begins

A crowd of local residents and lawmakers said they oppose and worry about plans to greatly increase the Burnsville Sanitary Landfill’s size and elevation at a meeting Wednesday.

Under a concept plan approved by the Burnsville City Council in March, the permitted capacity of the site near the Minnesota River would increase by millions of cubic yards, shrinking the site from 217 acres to 204 but permitting the landfill’s height to rise by 262 feet.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency hosted a public meeting July 10 to hear what residents would like included in the agency’s pending environmental review of the plans, which will consider effects on greenhouse gas emissions and surface water, among other things.

“It’s going to be hideous,” local Chuck Letourneau said at the meeting. “This is going to be a monstrosity when it’s done. Fortunately, I’ll be gone long before it.”

Pollution control officials repeatedly reminded residents the agency’s role isn’t to approve or disapprove of the plans but rather to collect information to be used by the City Council and others. It’ll also explore the impact to residents and businesses if the landfill size isn’t increased.

Odor, vermin, decreasing property values, water contamination and destruction of the Minnesota River Valley were among residents’ concerns.

Burnsville officials have said the plan would help clean up the nearby Freeway Landfill and Free Dump sites, which threaten to contaminate the region’s drinking water, by giving someplace for their contents to go. But residents Wednesday said they were concerned that wouldn’t actually happen if the expansion plans didn’t formally require it.

Jennifer Harmening, a 20-year Burnsville resident, said residents expect the expansion to be linked with the clean-up of the other two sites.

“That’s the environmental outcome we are looking at,” she said.

Mike Miller, a senior district manager with Waste Management at the Burnsville landfill, said the group is looking to leave the industrial waste business and focus on municipal and solid waste at the site.

He estimated the switch would shorten the landfill’s lifespan from currently over 100 years to roughly 43 years because of a greater demand in the municipal waste market.

To do so, the plans call for an increase in the landfill’s municipal solid waste allowance. The change would increase the overall waste capacity but reduce the existing permit’s waste disposal area and impact on wetlands and floodways, he added.

Marvel Kretzman, a downtown Savage resident since 1983, said she doesn’t want the size increase but doesn’t see an alternative for the area’s trash.

State Sen. Jim Carlson and Rep. Sandra Masin, both DFL-Eagan, were among those who voiced concern about the landfill’s proximity to the Minnesota River.

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

Resident Edward Hammes wondered who would be held responsible if waste entered the waterways.

“If for some reason the liner, the almighty liner, is compromised, you’re leaking potential toxic waste into the rivershed, which will go downstream,” he said. “Are we going to be responsible for that?”

The public may submit comments about the environmental review to the agency in writing until July 24.

Another public meeting is expected for December, and the agency’s entire review is scheduled to wrap-up in February 2020.

Michael Strasburg / Photo by Michael Strasburg  

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