CROSSLAKE -- Rotten-egg aromas emanating from a demolition landfill in Crosslake brought residents to city hall for a special meeting Thursday afternoon.
The council, staff, residents and even the demolition landfill owner -- council member Dean Eggena -- agreed the smell was obnoxious. By the end of the meeting council members said the issue of odor was subjective. And they disagreed as to whether the landfill has the ability to expand on its 23-acre site. Council members suggested the issue may end up in court. But few people beyond staff were still there to hear the final decision making.
The council members discussed the landfill, its history and current repermitting through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, for about three hours. They declined to direct staff to send a letter to Eggena identifying areas of noncompliance with the city-issued conditional use permit for the landfill. And they voted to ask Eggena to identify the boundaries of the four-acre landfill within Eggena's 23-acre parcel. The MPCA's permit is for a four-acre site. Eggena did not participate in any votes on this matter.
Council members agreed they were done discussing the landfill and sought a short break before continuing with the rest of the agenda. About 30 people who attended the meeting left. When the council returned they again took up the landfill discussion. After nearly another hour, they revisited the first motion.
Council member Dean Swanson said he wanted to see how much of the four acres was already used by the landfill and how much remained to be filled, if any.
Eggena, who excused himself from the council at the beginning of the meeting, said he couldn't do that. Eggena said he believed the CUP covered the entire 23 acres and was never limited to four acres. He said the MPCA allows for a permit renewal every five years and it simply started with four acres.
"I'm certainly not going to define four acres," he said. "This may have to go to court to be settled, I'm not sure. ... Absolutely I will not delineate a four-acre parcel."
Council member Terry Curtis said he could not see the city shutting down the landfill. "Whether the landfill should or shouldn't be there isn't the issue," he said.
The city attorney said the city could make an argument for the four acres as the maximum size.
Eggena agreed to provide the city with information on the landfill's size on the 23 acres. After considerable discussion and repeated clarifications, the council agreed to have staff draft a letter about the CUP's requirements that are not being met and mention concerns about the odor complaints, asking Eggena to address the problem. The draft letter is expected back before the council in May.
This spring, when city staff went to the landfill to investigate complaints they were told they were trespassing and could face legal action. Ken Anderson, community development director, said a group of residents also threatened legal action if the council does not enforce its own ordinances.
The city has an ordinance regarding obnoxious odors. In 1993, the city council decided not to have any more landfills.
Odor complaints dated back to July or August in the Fawn Lake Road area, but seemed to intensify in January. When staff shared that news on Jan. 12 with Eggena, he reported he had a Christmas Day fire at the landfill. At the time, staff reported Eggena declined to report the issue to the city council but said complaints could be referred directly to him.
The MPCA confirmed Thursday the fire likely heightened the smell, which may be coming from rotting Sheetrock. The Sheetrock is allowed for disposal at the demolition landfill. Doug Morris, Crow Wing County solid waste coordinator, said if Sheetrock came to the county landfill it would be directed to the lined sanitary landfill and not the county's demolition landfill.
Tuesday a city memo from the city administrator informed staff that no city official or employee will be allowed to enter any property in which Eggena has an ownership interest as he will view that as trespassing and will initiate legal action against the city for trespassing.
At Thursday's meeting, Eggena said his concern was for safety. He said escorted tours would be available to the public or city.
Eggena said he agreed the odor was obnoxious but said the city should be careful in looking at the rules, which should then apply universally to the whole community. Sandy Eliason, Crosslake, stood up in the crowd and objected to Eggena's comments when it came to arguing the points of the issue.
"He should not be speaking," she said.
Mayor Jay Andolshek said he authorized Eggena to speak.
The original conditional use permit, approved in 1991, called for -- security fencing around the demolition pit, a single access to the landfill and an MPCA permit. A fence does not currently extend around the demolition landfill. Both the city and MPCA cited multiple entrances to the pit. In February, Eggena received a letter of warning from the MPCA for alleged violations. The MPCA found green-treated lumber, an unacceptable material, in the demolition landfill in January. The agency noted there was open access to the landfill. When the MPCA was monitoring the site for hydrogen sulfide gas, the agency found waste was not covered by the required 6 inches for a monthly cover. In early April, the MPCA confirmed to the city that corrective action was taken to the agency's satisfaction.
During the meeting several residents spoke. Paul Willmus, Crosslake property owner, expressed concerns for groundwater contamination.
"I charge you with this," said Paula Karl, Crosslake. "That smell is the canary in the coal mine. That canary is dead at the bottom of the cage."
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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