Rice County landfill fire continues to burn, leaving residents and elected officials with questions

Families in rural Dundas and elected officials are calling for more transparency and communication days after a fire broke out at Rice County’s landfill.

Rice County officials said the fire began in the landfill portion of the Solid Waste Facility shortly after it closed for the evening on Monday, May 22. The fire is still burning Thursday.

Officials said the cause of the fire is still unknown. The landfill is closed to non-licensed haulers through Monday. On Thursday, Rice County created a new page on its website where members of the public can find the latest updates about the fire. You can find the website here

Night and day, Cathy Prodoehl is watching over her 46 prized goats—some of them award-winning—as she worries about the air they're breathing.

"I've been in contact with my vet. I know the signs and everything to watch out for coughing, sneezing, any signs of respiratory distress," Prodoehl said.

Step outside her barn in rural Dundas, and you can see haze and dust from Rice County's landfill a few blocks away.

"Pretty thick again today. Makes it kind of hard to breathe, and with all the animals that we have here, it's a little concerning for them," Prodoehl said.

Rice County officials told FOX 9 no one would be available for interviews Thursday. A spokesperson said a Rice County staff member was out Thursday monitoring the air quality at all residential properties within a half-mile radius of the landfill and "got no readings that exceed health limits."

But Prodoehl said that does little to assuage her concerns. She and her neighbors still have questions, and so does their state senator, Bill Lieske.

"What was being thrown up into the air? What kind of chemicals? What kind of toxins might be floating around now? Obviously, a landfill is full of stuff, so we don't know what that is. And maybe it's time for the agency to step in and at least help answer those questions," said Lieske, R-Lonsdale.

A Minnesota Pollution Control Agency spokesperson said Rice County has set up an air monitoring system at the landfill. MPCA also said it connected Rice County officials with an EPA landfill fire expert that can help with data analysis.

Northfield Fire Chief Tom Nelson said an EPA consultant recommended covering the fire with dirt, but that was difficult Thursday because of the wind.

Faribault Fire Chief Dustin Dienst told FOX 9 in an email that local officials have been in contact with multiple state agencies since shortly after the fire broke out Monday and they’ve been "working diligently to remedy the situation."

Lieske said he has heard from multiple concerned constituents. He called for increased transparency going forward.

"We need to work on communication out to the people that live nearby a lot quicker," he said.

Prodoehl said she's yet to get a knock on her door, and she continues to worry about the 3-week-old baby goats in her care.

"How toxic is everything that we're breathing in – for us and all the animals around? We're not the only ones that have animals," she explained.