History of Solid Waste
In the first half of the 20th century solid waste was not considered a major issue for Minnesota. Garbage and burning dumps were located on approximately 1,800 un-regulated dumps throughout the state. In Itasca County there were over 50 known dumps. There were county dumps, city dumps, village dumps, township dumps and neighborhood dumps, all uncontrolled. These dump areas were located in pits, ravines and wetlands. All types of wastes were disposed of in these dumps. The unregulated dumps also allowed people (and wildlife) to scrounge for items.
The dumps were never closed so we could discard anything at any time and do it economically. Often, the dump was started at the edge of a swamp and the garbage was used as a fill for land reclamation. As our waste stream started changing to more man-made synthetics that were not in existence prior a realization that the dumps were potential environmental disasters came about when these pollutants were leaching out of the garbage and into ground water. As the environmental dangers of dumping became obvious, the search for a better way of disposing garbage took on an increased urgency.
To get control over waste disposal, policy makers wanted to make one organization responsible for. In the late 1960s the Minnesota State Legislature designated the counties of state as the organization responsible for solid waste management. The counties are accountable to and regulated by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). In 1967, the MPCA started developing rules and programs to protect air and water quality and was granted the authority to oversee Waste Management throughout the state of Minnesota. In the early 1970s approximately 1500 dumps were replaced by 140 permitted landfills throughout the state.
The Itasca County Landfill was formed at this time. In early 1994, it was necessary to close the County Landfill in order to comply with State and Federal Regulations. Itasca County bonded monies to complete the closure process and for construction of a transfer station to accept waste. The remaining money from these bonds and accumulated interest provided carry over dollars to off-set revenue shortfalls needed to fund the Solid Waste Department. Over time, these funds have been expended leaving alternative funding mechanisms necessary to pay for the cost of managing solid waste.
The counties current sources of revenue include: SCORE, commercial demolition accounts and the sale of household garbage and demolition coupons used at our outlying canister sites and the main transfer station. State grants also provide for a small portion of the revenue for the county.