The worst of the hazardous waste in the closed Andover landfill will be removed next winter thanks to $11.35 million approved by the Minnesota Legislature this past session.
The funding was within the state’s $988 million infrastructure bill that was approved before the session concluded before Memorial Day. That bill also included money for reconstruction of 105th Avenue by the National Sports Center in Blaine and a new railroad overpass on Hanson Boulevard in Coon Rapids, for example.
These three projects had also been included in the 2016 bonding bill that did not get done in time for it to make it to the governor’s desk. Although a special session was needed following conclusion of the regular session on May 23, these projects got the funding its applicants had sought.
“It’s a lot cheaper to take care of cleanup now than to find something later,” Mayor Julie Trude said.
The worst area being removed is only one-third of an acre on the northwest side of the 122-acre property of which waste was dumped on 66 acres of that whole site, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
The Waste Disposal Engineering Landfill as it is called today was open between 1962 and 1983 and is located south of Coon Creek, north of the Andover Station North ball fields, east of Crosstown Boulevard and a residential neighborhood and on the west side of Hanson Boulevard.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is the recipient of the funds and will be administering this project. Walker Smith, spokesperson for the MPCA, said cleanup will probably start in February 2018 and take three to four months to complete. He said the MPCA is planning to have an informational meeting in August or September.
Smith said there would be odors when the old waste is being removed. The MPCA is scheduling to get the project started during the winter when nearby residents will be indoors more so than during the summer.
The contractor performing the work will decide where and how to dispose of the waste that is excavated. The MPCA will allow incineration or shipment to a landfill that is licensed to receive hazardous waste, according to Smith.
Between November 1972 and January 1974, this dump accepted hazardous chemicals such as paint sludge, oil, metal waste, degreaser and petroleum solvents and other types of volatile compounds. The MPCA knows of 43 different forms of hazardous waste in about 6,600 55-gallon steel drums buried in one-third of an acre.
The MPCA’s has mechanical equipment in place to protect groundwater, Coon Creek and nearby properties from water contamination and the potentially explosive methane gas. The machinery is working, but the MPCA is spending $500,000 a year on operations and maintenance because the solvents that leak from the barrels eats away at this equipment, requiring frequent replacements, and the electrical costs are high to keep the machinery running to protect the environment.
Anoka County had approved a license in August 1972 for this dump to accept hazardous waste. In November of that year, county and MPCA inspectors spotted toxic waste spilling out of some open barrels. Some of this was seeping through cracked asphalt that had been broken by trucks driving over the paved surface.
Further investigation revealed that Waste Disposal Engineering, the landfill operator, was accepting more hazardous waste than it was reporting. For instance, it reported 341 barrels in 1972, 2,318 in 1973 and 562 in 1974. But a 1973 survey by the MPCA revealed there were about 6,500 barrels of hazardous waste on-site at the time.
After being cited numerous times in 1973, the MPCA took away Waste Disposal Engineering’s permit to accept hazardous waste on Feb. 1, 1974.
While the federal government with passage of the Superfund law in 1980 sought to make companies that brought in the waste responsible for paying for landfill cleanups, the state of Minnesota came to the conclusion that it was too difficult to track down so many people and prove who was responsible for what. The Minnesota Legislature passed the Landfill Cleanup Act in 1994 so the state’s taxpayers would be paying the costs.
At the Andover landfill, a groundwater extraction and treatment system was installed in 1992 as part of the federal Superfund program and about 25 million gallons of groundwater are treated every year. Walker Smith, MPCA spokesperson, said current pollution in Coon Creek is from agricultural activity and stormwater runoff and not because of the landfill.
Most people in Andover are on the city’s municipal water system, which also treats water before it goes to homes and businesses.
The MPCA also installed a methane gas collection in 1998, a PCP treatment system in 2012 and a vapor extraction system in 2013.
“Even with the safeguards currently in place at the WDE Landfill, it ranks at the top of the list of closed landfill sites posing risks to human health and the environment, due mainly to the hazardous waste pit,” said MPCA Assistant Commissioner Kirk Koudelka. “Removing these hazardous wastes completely will greatly reduce potential future risk for residents’ health and the environment.”