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Contamination investigation plan for county landfill gets OK from co. board

WILLMAR -- A plan to look into contamination at the Kandiyohi County landfill will cost $850,000.

The plan, which received final approval Friday by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, will help pinpoint the highest levels of contamination at the landfill and provide information for cleanup. Gary Gilbert, from Environmental Concepts & Design, told the County Board on Tuesday the plan involves a complicated set of expensive testing systems.

The contamination at the landfill is no secret. The county has spent $50,000 to $100,000 a year to monitor a slow-moving plume for at least two decades as it has traveled away from the original landfill site that was established 40 years ago.

That plume, which is edging closer to the northern border of the landfill property, is now out of compliance in terms of the concentration of contaminants.

Jeff Bredberg, director of Kandiyohi County Environmental Services, said the county will have to decide whether to "keep chasing this thing" or clean it up.

Starting this spring, the environmental contractor will drill vents into the original landfill and take samples in search of hot spots, while vertical profiling takes place in the plume area.

The background information collected over the next 18 months will help determine where the highest levels of contaminants are and help create a plan of action for attacking it that will provide the best return on the investment, said Gilbert.

The best option may be to address the possible source of the contamination at the original landfill, which may have been caused by barrels of commercial paint dumped there years ago.

Cleanup will be expensive. Excavating just a few acres can cost millions of dollars.

On a separate issue, Terry Kaiser, from Environmental Concepts & Designs, clarified information he presented last month about the fees the county needs to pay into its financial assurance fund -- money that will be used when the landfill one day is closed.

The fund pays for the cost of closure, managing the landfill for 20 years after it's closed and for contingency action or emergencies, said Kaiser

The county has already paid $5 million into the account but has not made a payment during the past decade, said County Administrator Larry Kleindl.

Over the next 10 years the county will need to contribute another $5.7 million that it had not expected. That means the county will need to come up with $570,000 this year, and every year after that until 2020.

If the county does not contribute to the fund, the MPCA would likely not approve the county's 10-year permit to keep operating the landfill, said Kaiser.

Kleindl said the county will look at taking money from reserves to pay for the annual payments but will also look at other options, like increasing tipping fees to customers, to generate additional revenue.

The last time tipping fees were increased was in 1991.

In other action Tuesday:

? The commissioners agreed to start charging $10 for taking televisions and computer monitors at the landfill. The new fee, which will go into effect April 1, is being implemented because the recycling company is now charging the county a fee. The service had previously been provided free of charge to the county and customers. Computer towers, printers, keyboards and other electronic items will still be accepted for free.

? The commissioners authorized seeking bids for $4,580,000 in county road improvement projects in 2010.

Carolyn Lange

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

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