Clay, Becker landfills may haul landfill leachate to Pelican

By Louis Hoglund

An unexpected source of revenue may have landed in the Pelican Rapids City Council’s lap—potentially more than $200,000 annually. 

By treating leachate, pumped from the bottom of area landfills, the city could earn a measly 4 cents per gallon. But—multiply 4 cents times 4 million to 5 million gallons a year—and, now, you’re talking real money. 

In a nutshell, the Clay County landfill site, near Hawley, pumps and trucks its leachate to the city of Fargo for treatment. The city of Pelican could offer the treatment services—closer and somewhat cheaper—than the Fargo municipal facility. 

The unusual revenue stream was outlined by Robert Nuph, Source One Organics, at the Feb. 28 Pelican Rapids City Council meeting. 

So intrigued by the concept, the council voted unanimously to start the process. But the agreement will be drafted as a six-month “trial.” “Opt-out” clauses will also be incorporated into the legal agreement. 

The liquid that collects at the bottom of lined landfills, leachate, is required to be treated by pollution control agencies. Its moisture content is more than 90 percent. The leachate undergoes frequent testing to measure chemicals and potentially toxic contents, said Nuph. 

The Pelican wastewater treatment plant is uniquely designed to accommodate the additional flow. Also, the plant has plenty of excess capacity. 

The Clay County landfill would be the first in line, but if the program is successful, Pelican could also treat leachate from the East Otter Tail landfill in New York Mills—plus Becker Country, and even faraway Crow Wing County, in the Brainerd area. 

Pelican’s plant is operated on a contract with People’s Service, which was represented at the meeting by Terry Campbell. 

“I see benefits all the way around,” said Campbell, noting that bringing in additional liquid could even save money in chemical costs. The reason? “Dilution is the solution,” said Campbell. 

The more diluted Pelican-generated wastewater is, the more efficient the treatment. 

Interestingly, those same principles of dilution could also reduce the odors that periodically emanate from the Pelican plant and holding ponds. 

“Pelican has the treatment capacity to do it,” said Nuph. “You might as well take advantage of it and make it a revenue source.”

From the Clay County landfill, the average number of tanker-loads would likely be two to three per week in the off-season. Spring to fall, it could be as high as two to three loads per day, depending on rainfall, said Nuph. 

If all four possible landfills eventually came on board, the projected flow could be 5.2 million gallons annually. Gross revenue could approach $260,000 a year, with net “profit” to Pelican nearly $210,000.