Landfill vote on council agenda ... againThe Cloquet City Council will vote on a conditional use permit for a proposed industrial landfill in Cloquet’s Hilltop neighborhood at its council meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Residents are welcome to attend.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
The Cloquet City Council will vote on a conditional use permit for a proposed industrial landfill in Cloquet’s Hilltop neighborhood for a third time next week.
Twice before – Sept. 21 and Dec. 21 of last year – councilors voted against the permit by a vote of 4 to 3. After the first vote, they reopened the issue, citing new information from the applicant, Shamrock Environmental LLC (of which DemCon Companies of Shakopee is a partner) as well as the very real threat of legal action. The second vote was essentially only a vote against a motion to approve the permit. When councilors didn’t follow up that vote with a motion (and a vote) to deny the permit or list the reasons for voting against it, they left the vote incomplete.
Since the first two votes, two new councilors – Roger Maki and Dave Manderfeld – have joined the council while Erik Blesener and Herb Johnson finished their terms and stepped down.
The proposed landfill has been the object of much controversy, largely because the site is near a residential neighborhood and the Hilltop Park soccer fields. The actual landfill would be located within an area adjacent to Interstate 35 and between 14th Street and Highway 45 that is currently occupied by several gravel pits, a demolition-construction debris landfill and a lumber storage yard. DemCon Companies has a purchase agreement in place for 59 acres of a 160-acre parcel owned by Ulland Brothers.
Over the eight months since the landfill proposal was first publicly introduced at the June 15 City Council meeting – and featured in a front page story in the Pine Journal June 17 – a tremendous amount of information has come out in various meetings and discussions, not all of it accurate.
Following is a true-false summary of some of the most common talking points culled from the past eight months of official reports from the MPCA, city of Duluth and industry experts:
The landfill could accept municipal solid waste (household garbage).
Despite the fact that both the city and county failed to update the original 1971-1972 permit allowing 3.5 million cubic yards of sanitary waste (including garbage) in the landfill, the MPCA’s permit for the existing landfill is only valid for up to 332,000 cubic yards of construction/demolition debris (which does also include some industrial waste like contaminated soil but no municipal solid waste). As well, the MPCA’s permit for the proposed industrial landfill (which was approved in December but won’t go into effect unless the Cloquet City Council approves the conditional use permit for the landfill) does not include municipal solid waste.
The proposed industrial landfill would be much larger than the current landfill, and accept more types of industrial waste.
The existing Ulland landfill is only permitted for up to 332,000 cubic yards of construction/demolition debris, while the proposed landfill would be permitted for an estimated 3.5 million cubic yards. DemCon is also requesting a change in landfill type: from a Class I Demolition landfill to an Industrial landfill. Industrial landfills can accept construction debris and waste as well as industrial waste, such as contaminated soils, foundry sand, carpet and asbestos.
Cloquet will smell if this landfill is permitted.
If it does, city officials have the power (outlined in the conditional use permit) to shut down landfill operations. However, odor is not usually an issue with industrial landfills because of the types of waste accepted. Odor s (and vermin) are usually associated with municipal solid waste landfills – not industrial landfills – because of the large amounts of organic waste. In addition, DemCon has agreed to limit the amount of paper pulp waste accepted at this landfill, in a further attempt to avoid any possible odor issues.
Water quality and quantity to neighborhood wells will be affected.
The argument that the landfill will contaminate area residential wells or cause levels in the aquifer to drop doesn’t hold water. Pretty much every scientific study of the aquifer indicates groundwater in that area flows from the residential areas to the landfill and then down toward the wetlands and the St. Louis River. It’s also important to note that this landfill would be lined.
Residents are welcome to attend Tuesday’s 7 p.m. City Council meeting at Cloquet City Hall.