EPA takes control of expensive Freeway Landfill cleanup

The Environmental Protection Agency is taking over the cleanup of the Freeway Landfill along Interstate 35W in Burnsville, Minn. The landfill, which stopped operating 25 years ago, is Minnesota’s largest Superfund site, and the cleanup is expected to run a bill of more than $60 million.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency had been in negotiations with the landfill’s owner, Michael McGowan, on a deal to clean-up the site, but a Dec. 15 deadline passed and the MPCA said it would not ask the EPA for another extension.

The offer on the table would have put the Freeway Landfill on the state’s “Closed Landfill” program and taxpayers would pick up clean-up costs, which could exceed $60 million dollars. In exchange, McGowan would be allowed to develop 45 acres of the site, but there were costs and conditions attached to the development of the property that McGowan objected to.

“We think we’ve been treated unfairly and disparately by the PCA,” McGowan told the Fox 9 Investigators last month.

Assistant MPCA Commissioner Kirk Koudelka told the Fox 9 Investigators the agency had a new round of water testing that showed the landfill could pollute local groundwater when a nearby quarry shuts down and the water table rises.

After Dec. 15 deadline passed, the EPA started its cleanup process by requesting a list of “potentially responsible parties” whose trash was dumped at the Freeway Landfill. Lawsuits seeking money from those landfill users will likely drag out for years, increasing the total cost of the cleanup.