Residents object to possible change in permit for landfill near Hawick
HAWICK — Folks living near Hawick were never pleased that a privately owned commercial demolition landfill has been operating near town for the last decade.
But many are now livid that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is considering a permit that would allow new owners to haul an expanded variety of waste there: construction, demolition and industrial waste.
About 80 people attended an informational meeting Wednesday night at the Roseville Township town hall to listen to — and question — MPCA officials about the plan.
The landfill was first permitted in 2007 when then-owner Jay Morrell Building Investments LLC was allowed to operate a Class I demolition and construction landfill in a former gravel pit the company owned near Hawick.
In 2011, the landfill was changed to a Class II permit, which increased the types of materials allowed.
Now the business has been purchased by a metro-area disposal and recycling company called Dem-Con, of Shakopee, and a request has been made to change the permit to a Class III facility, which would allow all types of construction and demolition waste and most industrial wastes, according to the MPCA.
The new permit would not allow hazardous waste or municipal waste, according to Dem-Con President Bill Keegan.
Despite explanations that this landfill is better than most because it has four safety provisions — a thick polyethylene liner and clay at the bottom, a system to collect and remove liquid that seeps through the waste, monitoring wells to measure potential groundwater contamination and a $2 million assurance fund to pay for problems — residents were skeptical.
There were concerns that groundwater pollution from the landfill could area harm lakes and streams in northern Kandiyohi County and contaminate aquifers that provide water for people to drink and to irrigate fields.
"What does this mean to the land that I love?" asked Becky West. "It's a vulnerable area. We love this place."
Several people questioned how long the landfill liner would last and what impact there could be on future residents if it failed.
"Do any of the owners live around here with kids and will be here 40-50 years from now?" Asked one man, whose young children were coloring pictures in the back of the room. "Or do my little ones have to deal with it on their own and these guys stay down in the cities where this garbage is dumped on us."
Mark Rys, hydrologist with the MPCA, said the state does see water contamination from landfills, but that usually happens just at sites that do not have liners. Because the Hawick landfill does have a liner, the chances of groundwater pollution are slim. "The liners are doing their job," he said.
Rys said the monitoring wells located around the site would also alert the MPCA if any problems would occur.
Anthony Bello, an engineer with the MPCA, said the safety measures in place at the Hawick demolition landfill are no different than those currently in place at the Kandiyohi County landfill.
As the crowd continued to pepper the MPCA staff with questions and fiesty comments about the longevity of the liner and the intentions of the new owners, Steven Giddings, solid waste manager with the MPCA, said he understood residents' concerns and acknowledged the answers wouldn't make everyone happy.
"Unfortunately, we're a disposable society," he said. "If we had our way, we wouldn't have landfills anywhere. But have them, so we're trying to make them as safe as possible."
Giddings said the MPCA has had a positive working relationship with Dem-Con in the past and said the company is responsible and responsive to environmental concerns.
Three company representatives were at the meeting, but despite being called out by several in the audience, they did not address the crowd.
In comments to the West Central Tribune after the meeting, Keegan said the company met with the town board this summer to discuss their project but said they came to the meeting this week to listen.
"We were here to listen tonight and that's why we weren't saying a lot," Keegan said. "As you heard, it was a bit of a hostile environment, but we wanted to listen to people and get their concerns."
He said the third-generation, family-owned business is proud of its work, has a "great compliance record" and wants to be a "good neighbor."
Township Chairman Mike Flanders said the community is frustrated at the expanded types of materials that could be accepted at the landfill and there's concern the MPCA would allow the landfill to expand into the remaining 200 acres at the site.
"It seems like there's nothing stopping them anymore," he said.
Flanders said the board is taking time to study whether the township should create its own zoning board, which could give it more say in the process in the future.
He said he would also like to create a coalition of regional groups — like area watersheds, the Department of Natural Resources, lake associations and townships — to address concerns with the future of this landfill.
Even though the landfill is located near the small town of Hawick, Flanders said, "it's more of a regional problem now."
It's not known when the MPCA will act on Dem-Con's permit request.