Bonding bill to let city tidy Edgewater after big clean up

Published 10:15 am Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Albert Lea will soon see the restoration of the former North Edgewater Park dump site thanks to bonding language in this year’s bonding bill.

The Legislature passed $361 million bonding bill last week. Gov. Tim Pawlenty used his line-item veto to cut $89 million out of it before signing it late Saturday. Albert Lea’s request survived.

The language will allow the extra state funds allotted toward cleaning up the waste from the former landfill to be used to seed the ground, install a pavilion, replace the playground and bring sewer and water for restrooms.

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“We’re really thrilled that it won’t have to be left as a crude type of site, that we’ll actually be able to add back amenities and a safe playground,” Albert Lea City Manager Victoria Simonsen said. “We’re really excited. It will be a better park than it was, and it was already a gorgeous one.”

Contractors began initial work to clean up the former North Edgewater Park dump site last August.

The work came after the city approached the state Legislature in 2006 for funding to clean up the site, which was discovered in the late 1980s to have contaminants that were seeping into Edgewater Bay. The Legislature granted the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency $3.5 million to work with Albert Lea in cleaning up the site.

When estimates for the cost of the project came up higher than that amount, the city went back to the Legislature in 2008 to request additional funding. An additional $2.5 million in bonding funds from the state was awarded.

Bids came in low, however, and Simonsen said when the cleanup portion of the project is completed, there will still be between $300,000 and $800,000 left over. That extra money is what state lawmakers approved using to bring the site back to the way it was.

District 27A Rep. Robin Brown said getting the wording in the bonding bill to do so was accepted by the chairwoman early on.

“It’s so satisfying to be able to do some good work for Albert Lea,” Brown said. “When things come to closure with this, there’s a strong feeling of satisfaction that I’m doing the work the community wants me to do.”

Edgewater Park gets a lot of use by the public during warm months.

Simonsen said when contractors removed the trash, they graded the site flat instead of into a bowl, so if at some point the city wanted to use the land as a field, it would already be graded to that elevation. The parks board has discussed soccer fields, she said.

City staff would like to build a pavilion that could have four-season usage there, too, she said. It would be placed on the lakeside — or the south side of the road — instead of on the other side of the road where it was before the project began. Contractors would also grade for some parking on both sides of the road.

The 30-acre Edgewater Park landfill site was originally used as a sand-and-gravel mining operation, and from 1956 to 1972 it served as the Albert Lea Dump, accepting municipal solid waste — which included mixed commercial, industrial and residential wastes.

When the dump was in operation, pits were filled with the waste and open burning was practiced. It was used until the newer landfill was built.

When operations of the dump ceased, the site was covered with lake sediments dredged from Fountain Lake and there was no formal engineered closure of the area.

The area has since begun to produce vinyl chloride and other metals, and the MPCA investigated the site looking at the extent of the contamination.

Simonsen thanked Brown and District 27 Sen. Dan Sparks for getting the language included in the bill.

The measure required the money be spent this year.