Renville County determining how to deal with new legal issue over landfill plans
OLIVIA -- Plans by Renville County to expand its landfill through eminent domain are on hold. The county must determine how to deal with a recent legal issue raised about the plans. The attorney for the landowner, whose land the county seeks, cla...
OLIVIA -- Plans by Renville County to expand its landfill through eminent domain are on hold.
The county must determine how to deal with a recent legal issue raised about the plans.
The attorney for the landowner, whose land the county seeks, claims that the county must complete an environmental assessment of the landfill project before it can acquire land for it.
State law specifically prohibits governmental entities from acquiring land when an environmental review is required for a project, attorney Jim Peters of Alexandria informed the Renville County Board of Commissioners in a recent letter. Peters told the Tribune that a petition presented to the commissioners earlier this year asks the county to perform an Environmental Assessment Worksheet on its expansion plans.
Peters represents Dennis and Karen Barta. They have declined county offers for 80 acres of their farm land located adjacent to the landfill.
The commissioners were planning to take formal action last week to initiate the eminent domain proceedings, according to Renville County Attorney David Torgelson. He said the commissioners put the matter on hold until they can review the law on the matter. They will be asking their attorney for environmental matters, Scott Anderson, of the Ratwik, Roszak and Maloney Law Firm in Minneapolis, to assist.
The petition asking for an environmental review was presented both to the Renville County Board of Commissioners and the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board.
It raises concerns about the county's plans to accept ash from a waste-to-energy project being proposed by Home Farm Technologies of Brandon, Manitoba, Canada.
The petition also raises concerns about vinyl chloride that has been found in the wells serving a private residence south of the landfill, and a Minnesota Department of Health advisory that had been issued about the situation. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is currently in the midst of an investigation to determine the source of the vinyl chloride.
Peters called both issues significant, and said the county must address them before it can acquire land for the landfill expansion. Darlene Konz suffered a litany of serious health problems until the vinyl chloride was discovered in her home's well water and steps were taken to filter the water. She believes that the chemical leaked from an earlier, unlined cell at the landfill and contaminated her aquifer.
The MPCA has placed a number of monitoring wells in locations near the landfill as part of its investigation to determine the chemical's source.
The waste-to-energy project proposed by Home Farm Technologies would use a gasifier to turn municipal solid waste into a synthetic gas to replace natural gas used in creating steam power at the Central Bi-Products facility near Redwood Falls. It would create an estimated 15 tons of ash daily.
The possibility that an Environmental Assessment Worksheet must be completed before eminent domain proceedings can take place would put the county in something of a Catch-22 position, according to the county attorney. Torgelson said the county knows it wants to expand the landfill, but at this point has yet to decide one of two future uses for the landfill.
The county has made known its interest in developing a landfill cell that would be able to accept ash from the waste to energy project. It has not yet held formal discussions with Home Farm Technologies or reached an agreement. Torgelson said it is unclear whether the county could submit an application to the MPCA to trigger an environmental review absent an agreement with Home Farms. There is the possibility that the company could pursue other options for the ash.
If that is the case, Renville County would still be interested in expanding the landfill, according to Torgelson. The county would likely pursue developing a new cell at the landfill to handle municipal solid waste. The county's existing cell has less than 10 years worth of capacity remaining, and the landfill needs to be re-permitted in 2008.