Pig's Eye Landfill: Minnesota Dept. of Health

Pig's Eye Landfill

This fact sheet provides general information about the public health issues associated with this site—for people living near the site and other interested people. It does not provide a comprehensive discussion of all available technical information about the site, or of all health issues possibly related to the site. Other reports available from the Minnesota Department of Health contain more detailed information about the site.

Overview and site history

The Pig's Eye Landfill is listed on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's (MPCA) Permanent List of Priorities — the state's Superfund list. The site is located approximately three miles southeast of downtown St. Paul in Ramsey County, Minnesota (see map: Soil Sampling Locations on the Pig's Eye Dump). It is bordered by the CP Railroad yard to the north and east, and by the main Twin Cities Municipal Waste-Water Treatment Facility and Pig's Eye Lake to the south. Pig's Eye Lake Road borders it on the west side.

The City of St. Paul operated this 300-acre dump from the mid-1950s to 1972. From 1977 to 1985 the Metropolitan Waste Control Commission was permitted to dispose of ash from burned sewage. Incinerator ash was placed on 31 acres of the site east of Battle Creek.

The MPCA makes guidelines and oversees the cleanup process at the Pig's Eye Landfill (according to the requirements of the Minnesota Superfund program). The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) investigated this site, and has identified and evaluated potential health hazards.

Although it is called a "landfill," this site is more accurately described as a "dump," since various types of garbage were disposed at the site, and there were few controls in place to contain the contamination. The dump was never properly closed nor adequately covered. There is exposed waste, and not enough dirt or vegetation on the surface to keep people from coming into contact with the contamination.

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Are there any health hazards at the site?

Staff from MDH have reviewed studies, reports, past data, and the current site conditions. They have also contacted people who live along the bluffs that are above the dump, and other agencies that have worked with the site.

We have concluded that any possible health risks associated with the dump are most likely limited to activities that might occur right on it. People who are on the dump could be exposed to both physical and chemical hazards because it is not properly covered, and waste on the surface is exposed.

Several groups of people that might be exposed to dump contamination have been identified. These include workers at the nearby wood recycling facility; railroad workers who will use structures which will be built on the northern tip of the dump; people who eat fish or deer caught at or near the site; and those who illegally use the site for walking, skiing, campfires, fishing or other recreational activities.

The safety of those who work on the site has been taken into consideration. Gravel was placed over the dump before the wood recycling facility was built, creating a barrier to prevent physical contact of workers with the dump material below. No waste has been reported at the surface of the work area.

The MPCA and CP Rail are investigating the northern tip of the site to ensure that railroad workers are not exposed to dump contaminants. However, people who trespass on the dump for recreational purposes, such as fishing in Battle Creek, might be exposed to both physical and chemical hazards.

The dump has flooded many times. Recent flooding may have caused erosion on the site's surface, thereby increasing the amount of exposed waste, and the potential for toxic exposures to people trespassing on the dump. Plans for future cleanup and use of the site will need to address the flooding issue.

The likelihood that nearby residential wells have been contaminated by the dump is small; and past monitoring has confirmed this. Since there are no municipalities using water from the Mississippi that are located within 15 miles downstream of the dump, any contamination emitted from the dump to the Mississippi River is unlikely to affect drinking water.

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What does MDH recommend?

MDH recommends that no one trespass on the site, and that access to it be restricted. Enclosing the site with a fence is not practical (because the site covers 300 acres). "No Trespassing" signs are currently present, but we also suggest that access from the road be restricted by placing gates along some of the entrances to the dump.

We also recommend that workers at the wood recycling facility report any exposed dump material to the MPCA. Finally, we recommend that groundwater at the site continue to be monitored to determine whether there are significant changes at the site.

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What about future use of the site?

Currently, the City of St. Paul is considering whether to acquire property on the northern portion of the dump. If and when the property is acquired, the City will then need to determine how it will be used.

A community group — the Pig's Eye Park Task Force — is proposing to both the City of St. Paul and to Ramsey County that a nature area be created on the southern portion of the dump. This will include walking and skiing trails. Construction of permanent buildings would, however, be prohibited.

MDH recommends that any redevelopment be overseen by the MPCA. This kind of redevelopment of landfills and dumps has occurred elsewhere in the U.S., and can serve as a model. We also recommend that input from property owners, parties responsible for the contamination, and community members continue during redevelopment in order to ensure that any plans are protective of the public's health.

MDH encourages redevelopment of this site in ways that will prevent people from being exposed to contamination. The site will be reevaluated after redevelopment plans have been drafted, or if conditions at the site warrant further investigation.

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Fish Consumption Advisory

While there is no evidence that fish in Pig's Eye Lake or the Mississippi River are contaminated by the dump, MDH lists parts of the Mississippi River — including the section from the Ford Dam to Red Wing — in its fish consumption advisory. This advisory includes information about fish from Pig's Eye Lake. At the end of this document, we provide information about fish in Pig's Eye Lake and the parts of the Mississippi River that were originally published in the Minnesota Fish Consumption Advisory.

The advisory provides information about fish size and fish contamination so that people can determine the amount of fish that is safe to eat. The advisory is based on fish that were analyzed for two contaminants: polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and mercury. The mercury and PCBs that are detected in fish often get into the water from the air. The source of these atmospheric contaminants is unknown, and they may come from beyond Minnesota's borders.

To ensure the continued good health of Minnesotans, the Minnesota Department of Health fish consumption advisory has guidelines for how often certain fish caught from Minnesota lakes and rivers can be safely eaten. The advice below provides information on eating fish, which is dependent on the fish species and size. It is especially important for certain categories of people to follow these recommendation. These groups of people include: pregnant women, nursing mothers, women who may become pregnant in the next several years, and children under the age of six.

In order to find consumption advice for the species and size fish that you are interested in, look for a symbol which shows whether these particular types of fish have been tested. Use the shape of the symbol to guide you to the mercury or PCB meal advice tables. Fish may have been tested for more than one contaminant. However, the symbol indicates the contaminant of greatest concern. If there is no symbol or a species is not listed, then those fish have not been tested. However, larger fish are likely to be as contaminated—or more—than any that were tested. Smaller fish may or may not be less contaminated. The advise given is based on a fish measurement from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail fin. For the purposes of the advisory, one meal is assumed to be a half pound of fish for a 150-lb person. Subtract or add 1 ounce of fish for every 20 pounds of body weight.

MDH gives fish consumption advice for many lakes and rivers that have been tested for contaminants. For additional information see the MDH Fish Consumption Advice.

A copy of the Pig's Eye Health Consultation is available below.

Health Consultation, Pigs Eye Landfill, September 2000 (PDF: 2,029KB/38 pages)

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Updated Friday, September 23, 2011 at 10:41AM