St. Paul leaders are turning to the state for help cleaning up Pig's Eye landfill, a source of harmful contaminants that leak into nearby waterways.
The landfill — a Superfund site located on St. Paul's East Side — contains contaminants including metals, mercury and a class of industrial chemicals known as PFAs, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) officials said during an Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy committee hearing Tuesday.
To mitigate that, the St. Paul City Council is asking the state for money from its projected $7.7 billion budget surplus and the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Estimated costs for cleanup and continued maintenance are $200,000 for fiscal year 2022 and about $11 million for fiscal years 2023-27.
Pig's Eye is the largest unpermitted dump in the state, said Jamie Wallerstedt, remediation division director at the MPCA. The waste is located near the water, and when rain infiltrates the waste, contaminants flow through Battle Creek, Pig's Eye Lake and eventually the Mississippi River. Those contaminants eventually make their way to humans, according to the MPCA.
Initial cleanup, including the installation of a barrier to absorb contaminants, was done from 2000 to 2005, but continued monitoring of soil, groundwater, surface water, sediment and landfill gas is ongoing.
Going forward, the MPCA is studying whether to install additional barriers to collect contaminants. From now through 2024, additional study is needed to determine the best remedy, which could be implemented as early as 2025, according to the MPCA.
City Council Member Jane Prince, who represents part of the East Side, said the council has heard from hundreds of residents and organizations since unanimously passing a resolution — which Mayor Melvin Carter signed — asking the state to allocate funds for cleanup.
"[Cleanup] gets ahead of climate disruptions that could further endanger downstream communities relying on the river for drinking water," Prince said, as well as honoring Indigenous history and restoring health to one of the world's greatest waterways.
Legislators are drafting a bill establishing a commission to explore cleanup with various stakeholders including the city, county, state and federal agencies, said committee chair Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul.
Tom Dimond, a St. Paul resident and frequent Pig's Eye Regional Park visitor, testified at Tuesday's hearing that restoration, not just cleanup, is needed for humans and wildlife alike.
"We know that a healthy habitat, not only for the bird populations but for other wildlife, is better for humans and is a better asset for our community," he said.