Freeway Landfill and Dump


About the public comment period process

In June 2020, MPCA completed the public comment process for redesign of the Freeway Landfill and Dump. Public comment was requested on the three variations of the dig and line option, which is a process to dig up the waste to allow a new modern landfill to be constructed at the same location to contain the dug up waste. During this process, MPCA received 23 responses from citizens and interested parties including comments from the three adjacent cities of Burnsville, Bloomington, and Savage. A few consistent themes emerged:

  1. Concerns about final landfill height and/or placement.
  2. Cost as the most important factor. These commenters prefer lowest cost options and do not want taxpayers to finance a private redevelopment.
  3. A position that the only option is dig and haul, which removes the waste from the landfill and transports it to a new permanent site. These commenters insisted that the dig and line option is not viable and did not want to suggest that it was an option by commenting on the design variations.

MPCA provided responses to all comments that included specific questions pertinent to the project.


Next steps

After an evaluation of the design options and a review of all public comments, the MPCA has selected variation c for the dig and line option. This “hybrid” variation balances the waste footprint size and the landfill height and offers a few notable benefits: It preserves the natural landscape of the Minnesota River Valley, provides area for redevelopment along the Interstate 35W corridor, and offers greater flexibility if waste quantities vary during construction. The dig and haul option will also move forward as planned.



Map: Freeway Landfill and Dump  (Click to enlarge)

Map showing locations of the Freeway landfill and dump in Burnsville just south of the Minnesota River


What's the problem?

  • Freeway Landfill and Dump are former waste disposal areas unfortunately situated adjacent to the Minnesota River at Interstate 35W in Burnsville.  
  • The two unlined sites together contain over 6 million cubic yards of waste over 174 acres.  The waste disposal occurred without the needed protections modern landfills have to manage landfill leachate and landfill gas.  
  • The landfill and dump are a future threat to the drinking water supply of Burnsville and Savage, and to the Minnesota River because of expected future changes in the area groundwater movement. Drinking water supply wells in the area are tested regularly, and the water currently meets drinking water standards.
  • The uncontrolled release of landfill decomposition gases into the atmosphere contributes to climate change. The movement of landfill gas underground is also a potential threat to adjacent buildings.


How do we fix the problem?

There are two options for the cleanup:

  1. Build a new modern landfill on the property. Three variations were provided.

  2. Move the waste from the landfill and dump off the property to another modern landfill.



Option 1: Build a new landfill on the property (Dig and Line)

This option would first dig up the existing landfill to allow a new modern landfill to be constructed on the landfill property, replace the waste then move the Freeway Dump waste to the Freeway Landfill. The new landfill would be built with an impermeable liner under the waste and an impermeable cover over the waste to meet current regulatory and design standards. These modern liner and cover systems effectively encapsulate the waste material to prevent the release of contaminants into the environment. The new landfill will also include other modern methods to control pollution, including systems to collect the landfill gas and landfill leachate generated as the waste continues to decompose. 

The approximately 760,000 cubic yards of the accessible waste material from the Freeway Dump would be transported to the Freeway Landfill.
PDF icon Proposed haul route for Dig and Line option

The Freeway Dump totals 27.5 acres, and this area may be available for re-use once the waste was removed.

Three variations

There are three variations of this option. They differ in the footprint of the reconstructed waste area, potential property area available for reuse, height of the new landfill, and cost.  The purpose of the public comment period was to receive input on selecting one of the three design variations.


Variation A: Smallest waste footprint, tallest height

This variation represents the smallest footprint of the future landfill, which in turn results in the highest peak and preserves the most space for potential future land uses.  


Variation B: Largest waste footprint, minimum height

This variation represents the lowest height of the future landfill, which in turn results in the largest footprint and preserves the least space for potential future land uses.  


Variation C: Hybrid (moderate area, moderate height)

This variation represents a balancing of the waste footprint size and landfill height, which in turn results in a moderate height of the landfill and preserves a moderate amount of space for potential future land uses. *This is the variation that will move forward for project bidding.


Comparison of design variations

All three design variations would be constructed to meet modern landfill design standards and applicable regulatory requirements. All variations would include pollution control systems for the leachate and methane generated by the waste.  All variations would be protective of the environment, the drinking water supply, the river, and the air.  

Design Variations

Landfill Footprint

Potential Area Available for Reuse

Maximum Elevation

Height Above Existing Site

Estimated Total Cost

A.  Smallest waste footprint, tallest height

60 acres

22.1 acres



$102 million

B.  Largest waste footprint, minimum height

80 acres

6.4 acres



$121 million

C.  Hybrid (moderate area, moderate height)

76 acres

9.4 acres



$117 million

Additional details regarding current state of the design for all variations and the cost estimates:
PDF icon Freeway Landfill and Dump – Design Overview Technical Memo March 2020

A comparison of the landfill footprints for all three variations (labeled A, B, and C)

Map comparing the 3 dig-and-line options



Option 2: Move the waste to another landfill (Dig and Haul)


This option would involve excavating the waste from the Freeway Landfill and Freeway Dump and hauling it to a different open, permitted landfill for final disposal. 

Waste areas to be removed

Cost estimates

The cost range of this option is currently $165 million – $538 million. This wide range is due to unknown waste disposal costs. The specific landfill(s) that may accept this waste would not be determined until the work is bid.  Based on existing landfill capacities and acceptance requirements, various area landfills may accept some or all of the waste, introducing additional uncertainties regarding transport distances, haul costs, and disposal costs. Typically, these costs include City Host Fees and Taxes, County Fees, State Fees, and State Taxes, as well as landfill operator overhead and profit (collectively referred to as ‘Tipping Fees’). The low estimate assumes many fees may be waived or reduced because of the nature of the project. The high estimate assumes that all tipping fees would apply.



Why is a solution needed?

The Freeway Landfill in Burnsville, Minnesota, accepted waste from 1969 to 1990. The Freeway Dump was a separate disposal area that operated from 1960 to 1969. Compared to modern landfill programs, there were few design and operational standards for older landfills when they were initially built and operated. Under current requirements, there are a number of environmental concerns associated with the landfill and dump that need to be addressed to ensure protection of human health and the environment. As an example, the landfill and dump do not have liners under the waste to prevent leachate migration from the waste to the groundwater.


Map showing area surounding the Freeway Landfill and Dump

Site history

The Freeway Dump is located directly east of the Freeway Landfill and accepted waste from 1960 to 1969. This 28-acre property has a vegetated soil cover and is currently used as a golf driving range. The waste footprint of the Freeway Dump extends past the property boundaries and covers approximately 34 acres. The estimated volume of waste in the Freeway Dump is 790,000 cubic yards.

The landfill operator purchased the property that would become the Freeway Landfill in the 1960s. The Freeway Landfill site is bounded on the north by the Minnesota River. The eastern boundary is Interstate Highway 35W (I-35W). On the southern edge is the Kraemer Quarry, which is still in use, and on the west is another quarry that was formerly mined by the landfill operator and is currently operating as a concrete recycling operation.

When the landfill began operating, this area was a floodplain with wetlands and agricultural fields. While a landfill would never be sited in that type of area today, it was not a prohibited land use at that time.

The Freeway Landfill began accepting waste from the Twin Cities area in 1969 under a conditional use permit issued by the city of Burnsville. The MPCA issued the landfill a solid waste permit in 1971.There were few landfill regulations at that time. Permits usually covered some very basic requirements such as hours of operation, control of blowing trash, pest control, and restrictions on the disposal of a few types of waste.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, environmental knowledge and landfill regulations advanced dramatically. Landfills were required to be properly lined and operated to prevent water and air pollution. Landfill operators were given two years to make upgrades to their facilities, or to stop accepting waste. The Freeway Landfill stopped accepting waste in 1990.

At the end of its operational lifetime, approximately 5,300,000 cubic yards of waste had been disposed of at Freeway Landfill. The waste disposal area — about 140 acres — was covered with soil.

The area of waste at Freeway Landfill and Freeway Dump was mapped using historical aerial photography, along with environmental drilling and test excavations. 

Extent of the buried waste at Freeway sites

Map showing extent of the buried waste at Freeway sites

A waste transfer station currently operates on 12-acres near I-35W on the eastern edge of Freeway Landfill.


Historical timeline


Environmental concerns

When the Freeway Landfill began operating in 1969, there were few restrictions on waste accepted at landfills. Environmental investigations suggest that the material is predominantly municipal solid waste (MSW) with pockets of construction and demolition (C&D) debris and industrial waste. Historical records indicate that a variety of other waste may have been disposed of in the landfill.

Due to the significant dewatering at the adjacent Kraemer Quarry, the groundwater table at the site has been artificially depressed throughout the operational life of the landfill, continuing to the present. Prior to that, the site originally included wetlands adjacent to the Minnesota River. Projections show that groundwater levels will eventually rebound to natural conditions when the quarry pumping stops.

Diagram showing current surface and groundwater conditions

When the quarry stops operating and this pumping ends, groundwater levels will rise, and chemicals and other substances from the waste materials in the landfill will come into direct contact with the groundwater, causing additional contamination. At some point, that groundwater will begin flowing toward and into the Minnesota River. Some of it will also flow toward the Kraemer Quarry and into the lake that will form when the quarry eventually fills with water.

Diagram showing future surface water and groundwater conditions with quarry closed and no landfill cleanup

When waste decomposes, it can also create several types of air pollutants. The primary concern is the generation of methane, which can be explosive at certain concentration ranges. This gas can cause possible public safety hazards by migrating from the waste in the landfill to the surrounding soils and into nearby structures.


Environmental contamination

Recent environmental investigations performed by the MPCA have identified contamination related to both the Freeway Landfill and Freeway Dump. The most recent investigation was a ‘Focused Remedial Investigation’ conducted in accordance with the EPA Superfund process. This investigation was conducted in two phases in 2018 and 2019.  A link to this full report is provided in the Read the details section on this page.


A network of groundwater monitoring wells has been installed around both the Freeway Landfill and Freeway Dump to investigate the presence and movement of groundwater contamination.

The sampling results show that groundwater contamination is widespread within the waste footprints, and recent testing shows that the contamination has migrated beneath and outside of the waste footprint. At most locations sampled, this contamination has been detected at levels exceeding regulatory criteria. The most common contaminants include heavy metals and chemicals of emerging concern like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and 1,4-dioxane, though many other contaminants were also detected.

Groundwater contamination

Aerial photo showing groundwater contamination

The current groundwater pumping operations at the Kraemer Quarry are preventing contaminated groundwater from impacting the cities of Burnsville and Savage's drinking water wells.  Samples collected from the drinking water wells have not detected contamination above regulatory standards.


Sampling for methane has been performed during several environmental investigations, including an extensive investigation within the waste footprint of Freeway Landfill in 2005. Methane has been found above regulatory intervention limits at most locations within the waste footprints at both Freeway Landfill and Freeway Dump and in many locations outside of the waste footprints. 

Methane levels identified during the historical investigations and the MPCA’s most recent investigation

Aerial photo showing methane sampling locations and exceedences

Vapor Intrusion

A vapor intrusion investigation at properties adjacent to the Freeway Landfill and Freeway Dump is ongoing. Vapor intrusion testing to date has not identified contaminant concentrations at levels of concern from either a health risk or explosive risk standpoint under off-site buildings or structures.


Recent public input and events

The MPCA held a Facebook Live event on May 18, 2020, to introduce this issue.

Following the Facebook Live event, the MPCA held an online public meeting May 18 and provided the landfill redesign options in more detail. The public meeting was via Webex. There are two links to the Webex session (we had a technical issue with the full recording of the meeting).

During the public comment period (May 10 until June 12, 2020), the public was invited to provide feedback on the landfill redesign. These comments are now part of the official record.

Read the details

Documents about site cleanup options, based on the investigation of contamination.

Feasibility, design, costs
PDF icon Focused Feasibility Study Report (c-clf2-15e)

PDF icon Freeway Landfill and Dump – Design Overview Technical Memo March 2020

Additional details regarding current state of the design for all variations and the cost estimates for each.

Remedial investigation report
PDF icon Focused Remedial Investigation Report (c-clf2-15f)