The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) announced two major steps to address the Twin Cities metro’s growing garbage problem. As a short-term solution, the agency recommended expanding four south metro landfills to accommodate 5.6 million tons of new garbage over the next seven years. The Twin Cities metro generates approximately 3.3 million tons of waste each year and the amount of garbage going to landfills has increased by 30 percent in the past year.
In addition, the MPCA has prepared a draft environmental review of the proposed expansion at one of the four landfills — Burnsville Sanitary Landfill — that would increase its capacity by approximately 23.6 million cubic yards.
“We don’t take decisions to expand landfills lightly,” says Kirk Koudelka, MPCA Assistant Commissioner for Land Policy and Strategic Initiatives. “The metro area is running out of landfill space to manage waste as our landfills fill up. Additional capacity is a short-term solution. We are also looking at the long-term, big picture on how to best manage our waste so it does not need to be landfilled.”
Expanding capacity at four south metro landfills
The MPCA began a “certificate of need” process last year to allow landfills to apply for additional capacity. The last time landfills expanded, in the early 2000s, two landfills added about 10 years of capacity. Metro-area landfills are now running out of space. If they are not allowed to expand, Twin Cities residents could end up with no local facility to send their waste. This need determination is only for facilities in the seven county metro area; it does not include waste currently going to landfills in Greater Minnesota or out-of-state facilities.
The MPCA made preliminary additional allocation determinations for the four applicant facilities:
- Burnsville Sanitary Landfill (Burnsville) – 1,692,893 tons
- Dem-Con Landfill (Shakopee) – 627,244 tons
- Pine Bend Sanitary Landfill (Inver Grove Heights) – 2,398,746 tons
- Rich Valley Landfill (Inver Grove Heights) – 893,899 tons
Each facility may need to complete the environmental review and permitting process. If for some reason, a facility isn’t permitted to accept additional garbage, the tonnage will be reallocated to other facilities capable of accepting the waste.
The public now has an opportunity to provide feedback on the preliminary determinations during the comment period. The MPCA will also host a virtual public meeting on Wednesday, June 16 at 7 pm to learn more about the preliminary determinations and respond to questions and comments. A final determination on landfill capacity is expected in summer 2021.
Extending the life of the Burnsville Sanitary Landfill
The Burnsville Sanitary Landfill has proposed an expansion that would extend its useful life by 40 years to approximately 2062. The MPCA’s draft supplemental environmental impact statement (DSEIS) details the potential impacts of the expansion project on groundwater, surface water, liner and leachate collection, visual impacts, air quality, and sociological impacts.
In its analysis, the agency determined the expansion would not affect groundwater quality. However the monitored parameters do not currently include pollutants such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and 1,4-dioxane. As part of the permitting process, the MPCA will require that Burnsville Sanitary Landfill update its groundwater sampling and analysis plan to include current standard parameters and monitoring limits. Inclusion of emerging contaminants such as PFAS and 1,4 dioxane will be evaluated during the permitting process. The Burnsville Sanitary Landfill’s DSEIS supplements the 2005 EIS that the MPCA prepared for a previous expansion project.
According to the DSEIS, the project is not expected adversely affect surface water except during extreme conditions (e.g., 500-year storm events). An extreme storm event could result in erosion-related effects. The project is expected to produce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 86,542 tons per year of CO2.
In addition, the proposed project:
- Expands the landfill’s disposal capacity by approximately 23.6 million cubic yards
- Modifies and shrinks the current waste disposal footprint from 216 acres to 204 acres
- Increases the peak height of the landfill by 262 feet to a maximum height of 1,082 feet.
Submit written comments on the Burnsville Sanitary Landfill DSEIS to Steve Sommer, MPCA, 520 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155 by 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 31, 2021. Offer comments in person at the MPCA’s online (virtual) public information meeting on Wednesday, June 23 from 7 to 9 p.m.
Visit the MPCA website for more information on the recommendation to expand four metro landfills and the Burnsville Sanitary Landfill’s DSEIS, including information on public meetings.