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Board hears pitch about landfills

March 12, 2011
Jenn Brookens — Staff Writer

TRUMAN - To Deb McDonald of Waste Management, calling a landfill a dump is a four-letter word.

"Landfills are highly engineered," she said. "Use that four-letter word, and I'll get after you."

McDonald gave a presentation to Faribault and Martin County commissioners during the Prairieland board meeting Friday. She explained that Waste Management and the landfills it operates are undergoing a transformation to be more responsive to customers.

"A lot of businesses now, like Walmart and Subaru say, 'We don't want anything going into landfills,'" she said. "Well, what can we do with it?"

Some of those questions are still being answered, but as for current landfills Waste Management operates, or once operated, there have been great strides made toward recycling and re-using, but not in the traditional sense.

Underneath these landfills is a collection system that catches the leachate, or garbage water. The water is gathered into a tank to be treated or, in some cases, put back on the landfill to advance the decomposition. The gases given off by landfills - methane and carbon dioxide - also are collected. Some engines are designed to run on methane, or the gas can be used to produce electricity.

Some capped landfills even have been restored to natural prairieland.

"We are connected to the Wildlife Habitat Council, and we have 100 sites certified with them nationwide," McDonald said.

A two-foot minimum of clay-like soil is compacted to cover the waste. Liners also are used, so any sort of leaching goes into the collection system.

No action was taken after the presentation.

In other business, board member Tom Loveall said that if Prairieland devotes itself to only making refuse-derived fuel, that decision could translate to fewer staff members. Director Mark Bauman explained it would take at least 120 days to shut down the composting end of the operation, and that all staff is needed until then. Bauman said he would need time to determine any layoffs.

So far, it has not been determined whether Prairieland will just make RDF, as it has not yet signed a contract with the Wilmarth power plant in Mankato.

"I'm not going to let this go," Loveall said. "I'm voting no on everything from here on out until we have a long-term comprehensive plan in place."



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