County talks with MPCA on landfill permit

MARSHALL – Lyon County commissioners’ concerns about a late construction permit for the Lyon County landfill got a sympathetic hearing from members of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on Tuesday. While MPCA representatives said they needed to follow state policies in evaluating landfill permits, they also said in the Lyon County landfill’s case, a faster turnaround was needed.

Last week, commissioners had called for a special meeting with the MPCA, after learning that delays in getting a permit for a new landfill cell could shorten project’s construction window. In the worst-case scenario, the current landfill cell could fill up with trash before the new one could be built.

Consultant Randall Sippel said there is space at the current landfill cell for less than a year’s worth of waste. The Lyon County landfill had applied to the MPCA for a permit renewal for a new cell in 2012 and has been waiting for a decision since.

Sippel said the landfill received a draft permit on Friday, but there were still one or two points to be worked out, like language related to landfill emergency plans and frost protection for the cell liner. The draft permit would also need to go through a public comment period before it could be approved.

While most of the dialogue at Tuesday’s meeting was between MPCA representatives and Lyon County commissioners, Minnesota Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, and representatives of counties that use the Lyon County landfill were also present.

Waiting more than 500 days for permit renewal was unacceptable, commissioners said, especially if it jeopardizes the landfill’s ability to serve southwest Minnesota.

“If we don’t get going on (the new cell), we lose the construction season,” said Lyon County Board Chairman Rick Anderson. The delays also throw a kink into the bidding process for construction, Commissioner Charlie Sanow said.

Sippel and Commissioner Steve Ritter pointed out that the landfill faced similar delays five years ago, when it was also planning to build a new cell.

“Every time we go through that hoop, it costs our consumers money,” Ritter said.

David Benke, director of the MPCA’s resource management and assistance division, said he appreciated the chance to talk about the permit process with commissioners. He said the MPCA hadn’t realized how close to the wire the issue was getting for Lyon County landfill operations.

While Benke said it was important for the MPCA to follow its permit process for landfills in Minnesota, it still wasn’t an excuse for the delay. Benke and Mike Mondloch, supervisor of the MPCA solid waste permitting unit, said some work was re-prioritized in order to get the draft permit to Lyon County last week.

“We’re committed to make sure this process runs smoothly to the end,” Benke said, although that doesn’t mean waiving any of the official steps to approving the permit.

Benke and Mondloch said the Lyon County landfill can also begin pre-construction work without a permit, to save construction time.