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Burnsville council advances plan for taller landfill

Burnsville's city council advanced a hotly-debated concept by Waste Management to make an existing landfill taller than Buck Hill.

BURNSVILLE, Minn. — Jake Swaggert has lived in the South Metro for a decade. 

He accepts the fact that Burnsville is home to a large Waste Management landfill near I-35W and Highway 13.

Swaggert does not, however, accept Waste Management's proposal to heighten the landfill by a few hundred feet — a move that would raise the landfill more than 1,000 feet above sea level, taller than nearby Buck Hill.

"You'll be able to see the landfill from all over the South Metro," Swaggert said. "It's a scary thing."

Swaggert told the Burnsville City Council the very same thing on Tuesday night. "We do not need a new, huge landfill," he said at the podium. 

But he was not able to prevent the council from moving Waste Management's proposal forward. The council voted unanimously to approve the preliminary concept, despite objections from some residents and even neighboring cities like Bloomington, which sent a letter to Burnsville outlining concerns over the landfill proposal. Among the concerns: the idea that the expanded landfill could become the "dominant and defining visual landmark of the area."

Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth Kautz emphasized that Tuesday's action is "only the beginning." By approving the concept, the council is now pushing the proposal onto the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for an environmental review. The lengthy approvals process — which will navigate through a number of governmental agencies — could take years.

RELATED: Enormous landfill expansion project considered in Burnsville

"And this is the nice thing about something like this: We listen to everybody," Kautz said.

Waste Management believes a higher landfill would allow it to meet increasing capacity demands — and the city of Burnsville has some of its own specific interests in the proposal. 

For example, if Waste Management can heighten the existing landfill on Cliff Road and store more trash, this landfill might eventually be able to take in waste from two neighboring sites named the Freeway Landfill and Freeway Dump. City officials, including Councilman Dan Kealey, say the two dormant landfills despearately need to be cleaned up because they pose risks to the drinking water.

"They are a threat," Kealey said at the meeting Tuesday night. "We're gonna do whatever it takes to make sure that garbage is out of there."

Ridding the Freeway Landfill and Freeway Dump of trash could also free up prime riverfront property for development in Burnsville. 

But that's "very complicated," Mayor Kautz said. "And that's also a long-term process." 

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