Decision time for proposed industrial landfill in CloquetShould 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.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
First, the basics.
The proposal: Dem-Con Companies LLC wants to purchase the current Ulland Brothers landfill site (located south of Interstate 35, between Highway 45 and 14th Street in Cloquet) and ultimately expand it in size from 332,000 to just over 3.5 million cubic yards. Dem-Con is also requesting a change in landfill type: from a Class I Demolition landfill to an Industrial landfill. Industrial landfills can accept construction and demolition waste as well as non-hazardous industrial waste, such as contaminated soils, foundry sand, carpet and asbestos, among other things.
If things move ahead: 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. The new owners would also be required to bring the slopes in compliance with state requirements – currently the landfill is out of compliance and has been since at least 2001. Dem-Con also offers financial assurances Ulland does not have. However, the new landfill would be 10 times the size of Ulland’s landfill by the end of its life.
Make your opinion known: There will be a public hearing on the proposed landfill at 7 p.m. Sept. 14 Cloquet Planning Commission meeting in the City Hall Council Chambers. If the Planning Commission members vote to recommend the city approve a Conditional Use Permit for the site, the Cloquet City Council could vote on the matter as early as Sept. 21.
Also, the MPCA permit has been placed on public notice, and the comment period ends Oct. 2. Find more at http://www.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/about-mpca/mpca-news/public-notices/public-notices.html and look under Sept. 2.
Breaking it down
When Dem-Con engineer Bill Keegan describes how a lined landfill works, he uses a Tupperware container as an analogy.
The liner – think Tupperware container without the lid – goes at the bottom and sides of the landfill. For the Cloquet site, Dem-Con is proposing a two-foot layer of clay, then a layer of state-of-the-art plastic (HDPE) 60 mm thick. A layer of sand goes on top of the liner. Also added are a system of leachate pipes, which collect any rainwater and other moisture that gets in the container and sends it to the nearest wastewater processing facility, in this case the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District (WLSSD).
Dem-Con is not proposing to line the entire 59-acre site at one time. Instead they have parceled it up in their plans, and will line and fill up one five-acre spot at a time. As each parcel fills up, it will be covered with a couple of feet of dirt and seeded, for the next phase of its life as a grassy hill.
The “Tupperware container” gets a lid after the landfill is full. At that point, the landfill is closed and no water can get in because the lid forms a tight upper seal (beneath feet of dirt). The waste inside is left to slowly decompose for hundreds of years. The hillside above can be used for parkland, but no buildings can be built there.
If approved, the Dem-Con site would not be Cloquet’s first Industrial landfill. That honor belongs to Sappi, formerly Potlatch, which operates its own 1.4 million cubic yard landfill, which is approximately 60
percent full, according to Sappi officials.
The difference between the Sappi landfill and Dem-Con is that the Dem-Con site would be open to the public, so a number of different businesses could take their construction debris and industrial waste there, while Sappi only disposes of its own waste at its landfill.
The nearest public Industrial Landfill is the Voyaguers/Waste Management landfill near Cotton, which Waste Management officials say has approximately 4.5 million cubic yards of space available on the 200 acre site.
“We’ve done some market research and there’s certainly a market in the area,” Keegan said during an interview at the Dem-Con facility in Shakopee. “We wouldn’t be going there if we didn’t feel the demand was there.”
While Dem-Con recycles a significant portion of the waste that comes into its Skakopee facility, the initial operations in Cloquet would be on a smaller scale, Keegan said. Scrap metal would be recycled, and possibly wood and cardboard as well. Shingles, which can be ground up and put in asphalt, won’t initially be recycled here although it’s a significant portion of their business in Shakopee.
“It all depends on the market,” said Keegan. “For shingles, there has to be an asphalt plant nearby willing to buy your product. … Recycling will happen (at the Cloquet site) but it will be manual sorting. As loads come in, our operators will pick out [items like scrap metal] and put it in bins or stack it.”
That’s all fine, said Cloquet resident Clarence Badger. But the question Badger really wants answered is: “What’s in it for Cloquet?”
“Do we get jobs? Are we being nice? What do we get?” Badger said in an interview at the Pine Journal.
Keegan said Cloquet gets a much better landfill, lined, with more responsive owners (remember, Ulland Brothers hasn’t responded to MPCA requests to fix the slope of its landfill after a decade of letters from the state agency) plus the existing waste would be transferred to a lined landfill.
“[Cloquet] will always have a landfill there,” Keegan said. “That decision was made in 1971 when Knife Falls Township approved it initially, and again in 1975 when Cloquet wrote a [Conditional Use Permit] for it [after Knife Falls was annexed into the city]. Now the landfill is unlined. With us it will have a state-of-the-art landfill that meets environmental standards.”
Cloquet Planning Commission members have getting a landfill crash course all summer, along with city staff. They’ve also been talking with Dem-Con officials about what steps the company would have to take as part of the permitting process, from bringing in a substantial amount of fill before putting down the liner in a low area of the property, to clearing brush and putting signs near the Carlton to Cloquet St. Louis River bike trail crossing.
“[Processing an industrial landfill application] is not something we’re used to doing,” Community Development Director Holly Butcher pointed out to City Councilors in June when Dem-Con first presented its proposal to the city. “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.”
Those conditions will be an integral part of the discussion during Tuesday’s public hearing. Residents are encouraged to attend the 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14, public hearing at City Hall.