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Landfill request is tabled for now

Representatives of the industrial landfill in Cloquet's Antus Addition and residents who live near the landfill met at Cloquet City Hall once again to debate the latest request from the landfill for a change to its conditional use permit.

Representatives of the industrial landfill in Cloquet’s Antus Addition and residents who live near the landfill met at Cloquet City Hall once again to debate the latest request from the landfill for a change to its conditional use permit.

SKB Environmental Cloquet Landfill, Inc., (aka Shamrock landfill) requested a conditional use permit amendment to increase both the landfill’s hours of operation and the condition regarding paper sludge.

The change in hours would allow the landfill to be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week while maintaining the flexibility to expand the hours for specific projects.

Shamrock also wants to eliminate the current 20 percent cap on the total annual volume of paper sludge waste and allow the acceptance of this paper sludge on a 24-hour basis. They would not allow the use of heavy equipment on the site after 7 p.m. or on Sundays to help possible noise issues.

Residents, who fought long and hard against the landfill in 2010 and 2011, were not happy with the company’s requests.

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“When this company bought out the last company, they knew what they were buying.They were buying a piece of property that the residents didn't want to happen and we fought for a long time for a satisfactory permit that we could all live with and that was the agreement,” said Frank McKean emphatically, who lives one block from the Hilltop soccer fields near Shamrock landfill. “I'm just asking that they live up to that agreement. And because you want more business, or to make more money, you shouldn't be doing it at my expense.

“We should not suffer because they made a bad business decision and bought a piece of property that had limits on it,” McKean added.

That was the general consensus of all of the residents in attendance at the Cloquet Planning Commission Tuesday evening.

“It’s not our problem if they’re not making enough money,” said Barb Wyman when she addressed the room.

The city’s landfill consultant Fred Doran said he had been meeting with Shamrock representatives and working out a few issues, the biggest being a monitor system for methane gas and hydrogen sulfide that could be a byproduct of increased paper sludge. Shamrock has already agreed to locations for six monitoring probes and are in the process of making a flowchart to outline which solution will be used for which problem.

“I agree with what the consultant Fred Doran said,” said Shamrock representative Kyle Backstrom. “We will be putting contingency actions in place.”  

He went on to say that Shamrock needs construction business, which worsk from sunup until sundown, but currently Shamrock cannot and they’ve lost work because of that.

Commissioner Michael Haubner observed that while there was a lot of information presented about the monitoring of the gases, there was not much information about what Shamrock will do to remedy in the case of a problem.

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Five frustrated residents stood up and addressed the planning commission, all of them passionately spoke against the proposed amendment.

They expressed frustration at needing to protect their homes, yards and parks for the last 30-plus years since Ulland created a construction and demolition landfill at the site, then again with each new owner.

There were also two emails and a phone call to the planning commission from residents who were not able to attend the meeting. All three were opposed to the conditional use permit changes.

Resident Clarence Badger shared his concerns with the commission. Like the others, he was concerned with what would happen if the 20 percent cap were lifted. Badger said he called the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to ask how many times they monitored the landfill and was told maybe twice a year due to lack of staffing. He then contacted Carlton County and was told maybe four times a year.

Wyman, who was on the city council in 2011 when Shamrock bought the landfill, also expressed concern of the cap being lifted. She pointed out that she lives a few miles north of Cloquet and can still smell Sappi at times, so odors from the landfill would affect more than just the nearby neighborhood.

She said she had researched gas monitoring and gas venting.

“It's a scary deal,” Wyman said.

She studied the decomposition process also and how it creates energy and heat.

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“You're talking about fires and underground fires,” said Wyman, noting the fires can be caused by a variety of factors including spontaneous combustion and the sludge.  

The reason the 20 percent cap limit was set on the paper sludge is to make the layer thin enough so it will not cause heat or fires.

Baxter addressed the fear saying Shamrock has all materials tested to help prevent fires.

“We don't want that to happen, obviously,” said Backstrom. “We will not have any more of a surface exposure than we do now and it will still be covered, so there will not be a noticeable change in smell.”

He went on to say that the paper sludge would not just be stockpiled, but would be mixed with other materials, so there would not be a big change at the landfill.

“If we remove the 20 percent cap, we will not have any power at all,” said Commissioner Haubner.

“I feel like if this passes, it will open the door for other things next year,” said resident Karla Southworth.

Several of the commissioners shared the concerns of the neighbors near the landfill about future problems if the 20 percent cap were lifted.

“I would feel more comfortable if we do more homework first,” noted Commissioner Kelly Johnson.

“How do you recommend the land be used when there are gas pipes capped,” asked McKean. “A park for the kids? Not my grandkids!”

The commissioners discussed an additional issue, that the notices about the public meeting were only sent to homes within 320 feet of the landfill, which included very few homes.

Several residents said they only knew of the meeting Tuesday night because they read about it in the Pine Journal.

Badger recommended Shamrock be required to send written letters to residents living within 2,600 feet of the landfill so they know the particulars of the meeting in advance.

“They will be back every year, no matter what we do,” Badger said. “We will be at their mercy because every time it changes hands we are dealing with new people who do not know the history and we have been dealing with this since 1972.”

The commissioners voted to table the issue until they had more time to research.

Planning Commission Chair Uriah Wilkinson cautioned the residents that although they were welcome to attend the next meeting, this was the end of the public meeting. He advised that if they had any concerns for the commissioners to send an email or to call them in advance.

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