Residents express concerns about landfillClose to 60 area residents filled the Cloquet City Council Chambers last Wednesday for an informational meeting on the expansion of a Cloquet landfill site (south of Interstate 35, between Highway 45 and 14th Street in Cloquet) currently owned by Ulland Brothers. See an overhead photo of the site attached to this story.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Close to 60 area residents filled the Cloquet City Council Chambers last Wednesday for an informational meeting on the expansion of a Cloquet landfill site (south of Interstate 35, between Highway 45 and 14th Street in Cloquet) currently owned by Ulland Brothers.
Dem-Con and Shamrock Companies of Shakopee have arranged to purchase the 40-acre site from Ulland Brothers, which would continue to operate its adjacent gravel pit. However, instead of the current permitted 332,000 cubic yards of demolition waste, Dem-Con wants to ask the state and city to accept up to 3.5 million cubic yards of demolition and industrial waste. The company would also recycle quite a bit of the construction waste at the site, for example shingles that are ground up and sold for asphalt.
In addition to expanding the current landfill site, Dem-Con is requesting a change in landfill type: from a Class I Demolition landfill to an Industrial landfill. Should the city and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency approve the Industrial Landfill permit, Dem-Con would make a significant investment in order to bring the landfill into compliance with MPCA requirements. The landfill would be lined – it is currently unlined – and the groundwater monitored in more places and more frequently. Dem-Con would also be required to bring the slopes in compliance with state requirements – currently the landfill is out of compliance. Dem-Con also offers financial assurances.
After a brief presentation by Dem-Con and a landfill consultant hired to advise the city, organizers opened the meeting up for questions.
“What makes this site attractive to you, why Cloquet?” asked Linda LeBrasseur, who lives on nearby Janis Road.
Dem-Con Engineer Bill Keegan was blunt in his reply.
“To be honest, because it was an existing landfill,” he told the residents gathered. “It’s difficult to get new permits. The other part is that Ulland didn’t want to be in the landfill business anymore.”
Other questions touched on the following:
Rats and seagulls
Not an issue with a landfill such as this one, Keegan said, explaining that it is municipal waste landfills that attract vermin.
Children accessing the site
Keegan said there are no current plans to fence the site because it is adjacent to the gravel pits, but he did think Dem-Con’s greater presence at the site would deter young ones.
“We’ll be there from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. six days a week,” he said, noting in a later interview that people don’t do a lot of agate picking in landfills either. “We will post signs, too. And at some point, trespassers need to be held accountable.”
Tainted water supplies
The liner is built to protect groundwater, Keegan said. Should it fail in some way, monitoring wells should detect that. As well, he added, the groundwater flows from nearby residential areas toward the landfill and to the river from there.
When Frank McKean, also of Janis Road, asked about the possibility of the landfill altering water flow outside of the site, Keegan said he didn’t think that would happen, but he said detailed hydrological questions should be answered by the MPCA. A MPCA representative at the meeting took residents’ contact information.
Residents seemed relieved to learn the landfill would be accessed only from Highway 45, not from 14th Street.
A number of residents also expressed concerns about what they perceive as the city’s failure to monitor the gravel pits adjacent to the proposed landfill site.
City Community Development Director Holly Butcher admitted the city has not been strict enough in its oversight of the neighboring gravel pits, while Keegan made the point that the landfill is not a gravel pit.
“The landfill industry is a more regulated industry than gravel pits,” Keegan said. “We are regulated by the city, county and the state. They have teeth, too. The city can also take away our conditional use permit and then we can’t operate.”
Butcher was pleased with the turnout.
“A lot of people showed up and expressed their concerns,” she said. “I thought it was a good conversation.”
Next up in the ongoing landfill educational process is a landfill workshop for members of the Cloquet Planning Commission at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 17.
While Dem-Con officials delayed the actual filing of their permit request to give the city time to get up to speed on landfills, the company is planning to submit its permit request Friday, Aug. 20. A public hearing on the request has been tentatively scheduled for the Planning Commission meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 14.