The Burnsville City Council has made its opinion clear on the future of the polluted Freeway Landfill and Dump: The garbage must go elsewhere so that the area can be developed.
The council unanimously told the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) this month that it wouldn't even rank other ideas, lest it give the state the impression they were acceptable.
"We're talking hundreds of millions of dollars in lost development," said Council Member Dan Kealey. "For that reason, I'm out."
It's a preference Burnsville officials have stated before as a major decision about the fate of the landfill site looms large.
The MPCA says that the landfill and dump, situated near the intersection of the Minnesota River and Interstate 35W, are contaminated by heavy metals and dangerous chemicals that could taint both groundwater and the river. It's a priority to clean it up, state officials say.
There are two main options. "Dig and line" would dig up the trash from the landfill, move it temporarily and then return it to the landfill site on top of a protective liner, which the landfill now lacks. That option would cost $102 million to $117 million, the MPCA says, depending on the new dump's footprint and height. Three variations of that plan are on the table.
"Dig and haul," the option preferred by city leaders, would truck the garbage elsewhere. Council members want it taken to the nearby Burnsville Sanitary Landfill, a modern facility owned by Waste Management that officials already hope to expand. The landfill's owners and Waste Management also prefer this option.
"We've been wanting this landfill clean forever and it's finally gotten to the point where we have private-public cooperation," said Council Member Dan Gustafson. "That's huge."
But where the garbage would go hasn't been decided, and the MPCA estimates the plan would cost $165 million to $538 million depending on how far the waste travels and various fees the transfer would incur. City officials have said they think the MPCA's estimates are high.
Moreover, it would produce a mound of garbage so tall that it would tower above U.S. Bank Stadium, more than 350 feet above grade. Critics say it would be an eyesore.
But council members say the second option could transform the 100-plus acres of the landfill parcel into a $730 million development. The first option leaves only 6 to 22 developable acres, the MPCA said.
MPCA Assistant Commissioner Kirk Koudelka said his agency's main goal is "protecting human health and the environment," and that state officials have no opinion on which option is better. But that may change once bids come in, he said.
The next steps include picking a "dig and line" option, finalizing designs and then putting both plans out for bids in the fall. Officials want costs nailed down so the plans can go next year to the Legislature, which will make the funding decisions.
The MPCA's public comment period for the three "dig and line" variants is open through June 12.
"We just encourage folks … to still comment," Koudelka said. "We want to hear from people."