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Letter: Citizens have rights, too

In a lot of recent articles, the information says the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has the right to change an agreement in the existing permit that was made between the city of Cottage Grove and 3M Co. that they would only burn their own hazardous waste. This is stated in the current permit, so it must have been agreed to by both 3M and the city. Now the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says 3M has the right to take this out and bring in hazardous waste from other companies as long as they do not exceed 39 tons of regulated air emissions. Burning just its own waste, 3M is operating at about six tons of regulated air emissions. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency states that the current proposal 3M has brought forward -- bringing in up to 20,000,000 pounds of hazardous waste to use as fuel -- would only increase emissions 5 percent. My math says 5 percent of 12,000 pounds is 600 pounds. How do we know in five years, 3M won't increase pollution up to its permit maximum? This is a big reason that we need the mayor and city council to pass an ordinance banning commercial incinerators in our community.

Contrary to a quote from a pollution control agency employee, we are not mad about 3M not shoveling its sidewalk. We are mad about what has taken place in our community for decades. It is not just the water. It is not just 3M. It is not just this proposed permit change. What is the job of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency? According to the original statute:

"To meet the variety and complexity of problems relating to water, air and land pollution in the areas of the state affected thereby, and to achieve a reasonable degree of purity of water, air and land resources of the state consistent with the maximum enjoyment and use thereof in furtherance of the welfare of the people of the state, it is in the public interest that there be established a Pollution Control Agency. A goal of the Pollution Control Agency is to reduce the amount of pollution that is emitted in the state."

According to this, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is supposed to be looking out for welfare of the citizens of Cottage Grove. How have they done? On a scale of 0 to 100 with 100 being the best, the water quality rating is 20 and the air quality is 32 for Cottage Grove and it is significantly below the national average of 55 for water quality and 48 for air quality. These numbers are as reported by the Environmental Protection Agency for zip code 55016. In addition, 3M is or will be dredging the river and is hauling out contaminated soil.

The air and water quality we live with has been the result of people other than the citizens saying what is an acceptable risk. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 3M and other companies spend a great deal of time and money trying to convince us that this won't hurt. I would like the pollution control agency, 3M and other companies to clearly understand we have had enough. We do not want any additional risk. At least bring the air and water quality up to the national average before modifying or granting additional permits that will have any negative impact on the air and water quality. You owe it to us, our children, our grandchildren and future generations. Also, I would like our elected politicians to take notice. This year our financial support and our votes will only go to candidates that are taking steps to address these issues and hold the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency accountable for results.

Judy Huber

Cottage Grove