Talking trash at City HallDem-Con Engineer Bill Keegan told Cloquet City Councilors Tuesday that the Dem-Con company would like to significantly expand a Cloquet landfill site (south of Interstate 35, between Highway 45 and 14th Street in Cloquet) currently owned by Ulland Brothers.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Dem-Con Engineer Bill Keegan told Cloquet City Councilors Tuesday that the Dem-Con company would like to significantly expand a Cloquet landfill site (south of Interstate 35, between Highway 45 and 14th Street in Cloquet) currently owned by Ulland Brothers.
Instead of the current permitted 332,000 cubic yards of demolition waste, Dem-Con is planning to ask the state and the city for a permit to accept up to 3-and-a-half million cubic yards of waste.
That’s a lot of trash.
It is not, however, the kind of trash collected curbside in cities throughout Cloquet. What Dem-Con wants is a Class III Demolition Landfill, which could accept construction and demolition debris, as well as certain types of industrial waste.
On the plus side, Dem-Con would make a significant investment in order to bring the landfill into compliance with Minnesota Pollution Control Agency requirements. Dem-Con would line the landfill site – which is currently unlined – and monitor the groundwater more closely (which would be required by the MPCA).
No residents spoke at Tuesday’s public hearing, only representatives from Dem-Con and Ulland Brothers, along with city staff and elected officials. And, while the initial purpose of the hearing was to enact a 120-day moratorium on landfill permits, the council compromised in the end by voting to draft a letter of understanding with Dem-Con.
Holly Butcher, community development director for the city of Cloquet, had recommended the council enact the moratorium to give city staff time to work with a consultant to draft a more specific city policy on landfills. (Under the current zoning code, the city handles such requests by drafting a Conditional Use Permit, or C.U.P., which details the steps an applicant must fulfill in order to get the permit. It is a vague policy at best, Butcher said.)
“My concern is that when an application such as this comes across the counter, it may be very difficult to process,” Butcher said. “It’s not something we’re used to doing. And, while the MPCA are the environmental experts, it’s our job to determine the impact on the community. … We want to develop good, specific conditions.”
Butcher was also concerned about finding a way for the city to recoup the cost of bringing in an expert to advise city staff on landfill-related issues.
If the council did not pass the temporary moratorium, Dem-Con owner Mark Pahl promised the company would work closely with city staff to outline and address concerns, and pay the bill for a consultant hired by the city to help draft the C.U.P. Pahl also said the company would not file its application with the city until city staff felt they were prepared to handle it.
Heidi Kroening of the MPCA’s solid waste management division also addressed the council. She noted the agency has been trying to work with Ulland Brothers since its permit expired in 2001, without results. She said the MPCA was willing to make Dem-Con’s application a priority, for several reasons.
“The site is out of compliance now; it’s not capped and the slopes haven’t been in compliance for years,” Kroening said. “Also, one of our strategic goals is to move up and not just rely on landfills, but also recycling. We don’t have a lot of opportunities for construction and demolition recycling in this part of the state.”
The fact that the site would be lined is also significant, she said, adding that Dem-Con also offers financial assurances the current site does not have.
Tim Grahek represented Ulland Brothers at the meeting. He acknowledged the company’s landfill is not in compliance and noted there have been many changes in landfill requirements in the past decade or more.
“We’re in the construction business, not the landfill business,” he said. “So we’re handing it off to the professionals.”
During the unusually long question-and-answer session, councilors tried to figure out how a moratorium would impact the process, and how the city could protect itself otherwise.
“I like what you say, especially what you said about paying for the consultant,” Mayor Bruce Ahlgren told Pahl, asking if the company owner would be willing to sign an agreement instead of the verbal assurances he offered at the council meeting.
Pahl replied in the affirmative.
Council members will vote on the written agreement at their meeting in two weeks. And, while the public hearing portion of the landfill proposal was completed Tuesday, city officials said there will be plenty of opportunity for public input once the application is officially filed and makes its way through the planning commission and city council.
“There are a lot of steps that need to be taken and this is just the first one,” Kroening said.