MPCA seeks funds to clean up old Andover landfill

The maintenance bill just to keep an old landfill in Andover in check is $600,000 a year. That's state money paying for four different systems to keep contaminants out of the air and water.

What will it cost to clean it up for good? $22 million, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Agency officials are back at the Capitol this week asking for the last piece of that $22 million they haven't yet secured because of a lawsuit over the use of lottery money to finance infrastructure projects. The lawsuit is pending, but MPCA Assistant Commissioner Greta Gauthier told the House environment finance committee this week that her agency will have to redo the bidding process  for an excavation project at the site if the finances aren't secured by early March. And that could increase the project's price tag.

The Waste Disposal Engineering landfill in Anoka County is the MPCA's top priority among the 110 closed landfills in its program.

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"What is the threat to groundwater, to surface water, what is the level of methane gas?" Gauthier said. "Whether or not there's an impact on drinking water, the likelihood that people would be exposed to these risks at this site."

Houses, parks and schools have been built around the landfill, which has been there since 1962, before Andover became a major suburb. In the early 1970s, some 6,600 barrels of hazardous waste were dumped into a pit on the site. Chemicals from that waste have been leaking into a nearby creek and groundwater and are also polluting the air, so the MPCA had mitigation systems installed to deal with that.

"The work that's been done up until now has been to limit previous impacts," Hans Neve, who leads the closed landfill program for the MPCA, told lawmakers on Tuesday.  "Without the full excavation of this hazardous waste pit, we're on a trajectory to be doing this for a very long time making very little progress."

On Thursday, the House environment finance committee is set to hear a bill that would provide $6 million in bonding money for the project. The bill has bipartisan support.