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Freeway Landfill in Burnsville, MN will be a superfund site after all.

The federal government will take over a closed Burnsville landfill after negotiations between the state and the landfill's owner fell apart, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) said.

The 150-acre Freeway Landfill will enter the federal Superfund program, which requires that anyone responsible for putting trash in the landfill -- from the landowner to trash haulers to local governments -- pay for the cleanup.

It's an expensive outcome that, seven months ago, seemed to have been narrowly avoided.

In January, after missing a series of deadlines for negotiating a deal, the MPCA announced that it had reached a preliminary agreement with Michael McGowan, whose family has owned the site since the 1960s.

The plan was for Freeway Landfill to enter the state's Closed Landfill Program once some final details and legal issues were ironed out. The state would shoulder the nearly $65 million cost of the cleanup, which was expected to start in February. But the MPCA and McGowan couldn't agree on how to move forward with necessary steps, including a replatting of the land.

MPCA Assistant Commissioner Kirk Koudelka told McGowan in a letter that he would be informing the Environmental Protection Agency that efforts to deal with the landfill failed.

There have long been environmental concerns about Freeway Landfill, which accepted trash between 1969 and 1990.

The trash still in the landfill -- including chemicals and other substances that today would be illegal to dispose of there -- has raised concerns because of the site's proximity to the Minnesota River and a quarry that provides drinking water to Burnsville and Savage.

The company currently mining the quarry pumps out millions of gallons of water a day.

When the mining stops -- likely in 15 to 20 years, assuming everything goes as planned -- the water table will rise and groundwater will come in contact with the trash.

Michael McGowan has said the MPCA cleanup is unnecessary, and raised concerns about whether entering the Closed Landfill Program would allow him to continue operating a garbage transfer station on the site and eventually develop some of the land.

"Due to the lack of good-faith negotiations on behalf of the PCA ... it would be very unfortunate if school districts and cities would be drawn into the Superfund process because they are potentially responsible parties," McGowan said. "I realized after reading Mr. Koudelka's letter there are clearly two sides to this story."

The cleanup process that state officials planned was expected to take about five years and involved moving the trash onto a protective liner to prevent water contamination.

Source: Emma Nelson, Star Tribune

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Publication:Hazardous Waste Superfund Alert
Date:Aug 5, 2016
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