Innovative water treatment system draws attention to Kandiyohi County

NEW LONDON -- Pipes, pumps, valves, tanks and electronic meters and gadgets are being assembled at the Kandiyohi County landfill where mechanics will meet a bit of magic in a unique system that will purify thousands of gallons of toxic water that...

Leachate system
Dave Ackerson, front, from Apex Efficiency Solutions, shows Kandiyohi County Administrator Larry Kleindl the new leachate treatment system currently under construction at the Kandiyohi County landfill. Work on the innovative system to purify thousands of gallons of putrid water that seeps from the Kandiyohi County landfill every day is nearing completion. (CAROLYN | TRIBUNE)

NEW LONDON - Pipes, pumps, valves, tanks and electronic meters and gadgets are being assembled at the Kandiyohi County landfill where mechanics will meet a bit of magic in a unique system that will purify thousands of gallons of toxic water that slithers through layers of garbage every day.
The $2.8 million filtering system is nearing completion and, pending final word from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, should be in full operation by next month.
“Kandiyohi County is really excited about this leachate project, first of all, because it’s good for the environment,” said County Administrator Larry Kleindl, during a meeting Wednesday at the landfill with project coordinators.
Treating the landfill water - called leachate - at the landfill rather than trucking it to the wastewater treatment facility in Willmar will also save the county money.
“It’ll pay for itself in 20 years,” Kleindl said.
This is the first leachate treatment unit of its kind built in the United States and could be a “game changer” for how the country treats not only leachate but also municipal wastewater, said Kazem Oskoui, from Clark Engineering Corp. of Minneapolis,
Oskoui, who engineered the patent-pending system and has designed similar systems in other countries, said he fields calls “from around the world” about the system being installed at the Kandiyohi County landfill, which is located west of New London.
He predicts - only half-jokingly - that the new leachate filter system could make the Kandiyohi County landfill a tourist site. Jeff Bredberg, Director of Environmental Services for the county, said he’s already been getting calls from supervisors in numerous counties who want to see the leachate system operate.
“They are curious about it,” Bredberg said.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony, which will include invitations to U.S. Sen. Al Franken and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and local elected officials, will be held sometime this summer to showcase the system.
“I want them to understand the importance of what we’re doing here,” Kleindl said.
Oskoui and engineers from Apex Efficiency Solutions set up a test module of the system last year at the landfill.
After test results came back positive, the county agreed to invest in the equipment as a full-time alternative to trucking and treating the leachate. Currently, the county ships 3 million to 4 million gallons of leachate to the city’s wastewater treatment plant every year.

Greg Ackerson, an engineer from Apex Efficiency Solutions, said wastewater treatment plants cannot remove all the toxic items in leachate and it’s eventually discharged into streams “for other people to then pick up in their drinking water plants.”
That process will soon end once leachate starts moving through the new filtration system, which is housed in a new block building at the landfill.
“It’s very compact, neat,” said Oskoui. “It’s a simple machine and it’s going to clean up the leachate in one pass.”
The raw leachate will zigzag through a set of stainless steel pipes and filters that are “so tight” that it can remove bacteria, viruses, heavy metals, chlorides, carcinogens and “anything that’s nasty for you,” Ackerson said.
The clear water that’s “ejected” from the system and piped to a small holding pond at the landfill will be clean enough to meet national drinking water standards, Ackerson said.
The remaining “bad stuff” will be collected and then put back in the landfill for permanent containment, he said.
The MPCA is expected to file their final comments on the project by June 12 and after that the final pipe installation will take place and leachate will begin flowing through the system.
During the initial testing phase, any kinks will be worked out of the system and then the keys will be turned over to the county, Ackerson said

Leachate system
Kandiyohi County Administrator Larry Kleindl, left, talks with Greg Ackerson from Apex Efficiency Solutions, middle, and Kazen Oskoui, from Clark Engineering Corp. of Minneapolis, about the leachate filter system. (CAROLYN | TRIBUNE)

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at or 320-894-9750
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