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Pilot project under way at landfill to test new leachate treatment

Kazem Oskoui, Clark Engineering Corporation, holds a jar of untreated leachate, on the left, and a jar of leachate after it was treated through a filtering system he has engineered. The equipment is being used during a two-week pilot project at the Kandiyohi County landfill to determine if the system can adequately treat millions of gallons of water that seeps from the landfill each year. (Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange)1 / 2
Greg Ackerson, from Apex Companies, talks about equipment that is being tested to determine if it can adequately treat millions of gallons of water that seeps from the Kandiyohi County landfill every year. Currently, the county hauls that leachate to the Willmar wastewater treatment plant. The tests will determine if treating the contaminated water on site is an economically viable alternative. (Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange) 2 / 2

NEW LONDON — Every day thousands of gallons of putrid water laced with bacteria and nasty chemicals seep through heaps of garbage at the Kandiyohi County landfill.

Called leachate, the foul-smelling, tea-colored liquid is collected and trucked to Willmar and processed at the municipal wastewater treatment facility.

It’s a process that costs county taxpayers about $150,000 every year.

But a high-pressure filtering system that is used in other countries may provide an economic and environmental alternative here in Kandiyohi County.

A two-week pilot project of a modular filtering unit began this week at the landfill.

Following the regular meeting Tuesday, the County Board of Commissioners saw a demonstration of how the equipment works.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which will monitor the testing procedures and results to see if it all meets state standards, will be at the landfill today to witness the process.

Right now sending leachate to wastewater facilities is the only option in Minnesota, said Greg Ackerson, from Apex Efficiency Solutions, who is working with the county on the project.

 “But it’s not the answer, and that’s why the MPCA is excited about this, and so are we,” said Ackerson.

“We are very excited because this will solve a lot of problems and remove the need for giant leachate treatment systems,” said Kazem Oskoui, from Clark Engineering Corp. of Minneapolis.

Oskoui, who engineered the patent-pending system that he has overseen in European and Third World countries, said being allowed to showcase and test the equipment here could prove to be a “new chapter” in how American communities treat leachate.

By using pumps, stainless steel pipes and the same kind of high-quality filters used to make orange juice concentrate, Oskoui said the system allows clean water to come out one end and contaminants out another.

During the demonstration, it took less than a minute for a tank of dirty landfill leachate to go through the system.

A switch was turned and clear water flowed from a hose that Oskoui used to fill a quart jar with water that he claimed was “almost drinking water” quality and could be used for irrigation or discharged into streams.

“It’s sparkling clean,” he declared.

The remaining sludge can be dried, made inert by adding lime and buried back in the landfill or applied on land for fertilizer, said Ackerson.

“What we’re really interested in is stewardship, and that’s both fiscal and environmental,” said Ackerson, who grew up in Montevideo. “We want to make sure it’s good for the taxpayers and the environment.”

Oskoui said the system uses no chemicals to remove contaminants and is “very simple” and easy to maintain with self-scrubbing filters that will last up to 15 years.

But when pressed by Commissioner Doug Reese on exactly how the system works, Ackerson was not willing to tip his hand and said there is a “secret sauce” of engineering and how the filters are used.

The equipment will be put through a stringent set of tests during the pilot project, but it’s clear the county is hoping this technology will be a long-term solution.

Jeff Bredberg, director of environmental services for the county, said 3 million to 4 million gallons of leachate is generated, transported and treated each year in the county. He said that will continue until the end of time, even if the landfill is shut down.

At this point the county has not paid Apex anything for the project, but that could change depending on the test results.

If it’s proven that installing permanent equipment will meet state standards for treating leachate and is guaranteed to pay for itself through energy and operational savings within a 20-year time span, then the county can either proceed with construction or not.

If the county declines, they will still be required to pay Apex $58,400. If the project is OK’d, that fee will be incorporated into the total construction cost, which is estimated at $2 million to $3 million.

If the standards are not met or economic viability not guaranteed, then the county has no financial obligations.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750