WILLMAR –– A filter system that could clean the water that seeps out the bottom of mounds of garbage will be tested at the Kandiyohi County landfill this summer.

If the two-week test shows the water –– called leachate –– can be cleaned to meet Minnesota Pollution Control Agency standards and proves that the process will save the county money, a permanent system could be installed at the landfill.

If it is, it will be the first of its kind used at a landfill in the United States.

The systems are currently used to treat leachate at 70 locations in Europe, said Greg Ackerson, from Apex Efficiency Solutions, based in Coon Rapids.

The Commissioners agreed Tuesday to pursue the pilot project.

The company will use a portable testing system at the landfill for two weeks this summer.

At this point there’s no financial risk to the county, but the endeavor could cost at least $58,400 if the goals of the engineering study are met.

But the county could walk away from the project.

If the MPCA doesn’t approve a final permit or if the system is proven not to save the county money, “you don’t owe us a dime,” said Ackerson.

If the Commissioners are convinced the project will provide long-term financial and environmental benefits, the initial study fees will be rolled into the cost of installing a permanent system, estimated to cost of $2 million to $3 million.

County Administrator Larry Kleindl said he wants to make sure the county is “as risk-free as possible” but said nothing is 100 percent guaranteed.

Ackerson said there are layers of guarantees to protect the county if the system is installed.

Commissioner Roger Imdieke said the county has “a chance here to look foolish” if the system doesn’t work.

On the other hand, he said, the county could be on the “leading edge” of new technology and reduce the county’s long-term expenses at the landfill.

Currently the landfill generates about 10,000 gallons of leachate that’s trucked every day to the Willmar water treatment plant.

It’s a process that costs about $100,000 every year, with no guarantee about future costs or if the city will continue to accept the leachate.

The Apex leachate treatment system uses stainless steel pipes, a simple 30 horsepower pump, and filters that cost about $4,000 each, that remove impurities from the water.

Ackerson said a short demonstration test done at the county landfill shows that after one pass through the filters the water is cleaner than what’s discharged from the Willmar water treatment plant.

“We’re filtering out all the nasties,” he said, adding that all tests to examine water quality are done by an independent lab.

It’s not known what the county would do with the treated water, but Ackerson said it could be used for irrigation or simply discharged.

There could also be uses for the concentrated minerals that are extracted.

Ackerson said the concentrate could be used as a soil additive but wasn’t sure if the quantity would be great enough to make it a marketable product.

Kleindl said if the tests prove the process to be effective and if the board agrees to purchase a system, a bond to pay for the project would be off-set by the annual $100,000 costs the county currently pays to treat leachate.

In other action Tuesday, the board approved promoting Greg Stehn as the new Kandiyohi County Chief Deputy Sheriff. He’ll replace Randy Kveene, who is retiring May 31.

Stehn, who’s been with the sheriff’s department since 1996 and has served as captain and jail administrator since 2006, begins his new position June 1.

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