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The Burnsville City Council on Tuesday approved plans to greatly expand capacity at the Burnsville Sanitary Landfill, bringing new height allowances that’ll eventually require flashing lights for airplanes.

The expansion, which is on track to soon receive the final go-ahead from permitting authorities, will increase the landfill’s capacity for waste by 23.6 million cubic yards, and its height by 268 feet to a total height of 372 feet.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Burnsville officials commended Waste Management for their yearslong effort on the project and clapped back at Bloomington officials who opposed the plans on the grounds of the landfill’s visual and potential environmental impacts on the Minnesota River valley.

“If Bloomington has a problem with this landfill, they can take their garbage somewhere else,” council member Cara Schulz said.

City officials have long supported Burnsville Sanitary Landfill’s expansion, partially because the landfill already exists amid a major pinch on available waste disposal capacity in the Twin Cities.

“I understand that there are many members of our community who do not want to see the landfill expand,” said Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth Kautz. “However, the landfill is here. It’s not going to go away.” 

Much of the council's support for the project has also been tied to Waste Management’s potential role in the future clean-up of pollutants at a nearby Superfund site, the Freeway Landfill and Dump. 

The Burnsville Sanitary Landfill and the Freeway sites both began operations in the 1960s, before modern-day regulations required synthetic liners and leachate collection systems to prevent contaminants from percolating into the groundwater.

Source: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. 

Source: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. 

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency believes the unlined waste at the Freeway sites poses a future threat to the drinking water and the agency has spent years studying how to clean it up. 

The Minnesota Legislature will have the final say in commissioning a clean-up, but two scenarios are being considered. 

Under the “dig-and-line” scenario, the waste would be dug out, the landfill would be lined, and the waste would be dumped back in and sealed off.

The “dig-and-haul” method would completely remove the trash and carry it off to be landfilled somewhere else — that's where city officials are hoping the Burnsville Sanitary Landfill expansion can help, leaving behind valuable waterfront redevelopment opportunity at the former Freeway site. 

Earlier this month, the Burnsville Planning Commission recommended a provision that would make the Burnsville Sanitary Landfill's height increase contingent on the landfill eventually taking in the Freeway waste. 

However, the Council ultimately overrode this recommendation, leaving no promise the expansion will ultimately bring about the desired clean-up. 

Under the city's park dedication fee ordinance, Waste Management will pay a roughly a $1.9 million fee in association with the expansion. 

The city also renegotiated the terms of the fees it collects for hosting a landfill. The starting rate for next year is set at $6.83 per ton of waste, according to city documents. The current fee paid to the city is $4.33 per ton. 

The terms of the new 10-year agreement also include an 3.5% annual inflationary increase, bringing the city's fee to $9.30 per ton in 2032. 

Michael Miller, with Waste Management, said the expansion will amount to roughly $750 million in fee revenue for the city, county and state. 

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