Viewpoint: 3M incinerator proposal not in community’s best interestThere is nothing positive in 3M Co.’s proposal to burn waste from other companies in its incinerator for Cottage Grove and surrounding communities.
By: Fred Luden, South Washington County Bulletin
There is nothing positive in 3M Co.’s proposal to burn waste from other companies in its incinerator for Cottage Grove and surrounding communities. The current permit restricts bringing in waste from non-3M facilities. The incinerator was built after environmental issues were found at the Woodbury landfill. To prevent this from happening again, 3M decided to manage waste streams from the purchase of raw materials to final disposal of waste. This is kind of like a chain of custody — the company knows what is in the waste and about any changes in raw material. That has allowed them to do a good job when material needed to be incinerated. When you propose to bring in material from another company you lose this chain of custody. In addition, this proposal would bring in the waste from a middle man who blends waste streams from a number of other companies. If there is ever an issue, it will be hard to hold just one company responsible. Also, this proposal opens the door to convert this from a private to a commercial incinerator.
We have read that this is “just” one tanker a day of regulated waste that would be brought in. If we estimate a tanker to be 40,000 pounds and at 365 days a year, they are asking to bring in over 15,000,000 pounds a year of regulated waste from other companies to burn in Cottage Grove. Again the source of this material is from a fuel blender. That business takes waste from multiple companies, blends it together, and it reduces the concentration of any one element. The contaminants will include heavy metals — lead, cadmium, zinc and possibly traces of mercury. Since the incinerator was first built, Cottage Grove has become a large, growing community and heavy metal contaminants are not good for children.
Incineration does not destroy heavy metals. Some will be released in the air, some through the wastewater, and what is captured will be shipped to a hazardous waste landfill.
Natural gas burns clean. Even though burning this new waste source will be within permit limits, it would increase emissions versus burning natural gas. It wasn’t too many years ago when 3M shut down its boilers and entered into an agreement with then-LS Power to provide steam to them. Ironically the benefit stated then was that emissions from the coal boilers would be replaced with clean-burning natural gas. People are very happy that 3M has continued to eliminate waste when possible. This does not mean we should want it replaced with waste from other companies.
3M officials stated that it is going to build product where it is sold. That means in the USA, 3M-generated wastes will continue to decline. If the current permit is opened to allow waste from other companies, it would be logical that 3M will continue to want to bring in even more outside waste as its internal volumes decline.
This will not be good for Cottage Grove. What can you do? Contact elected officials, letting them know you oppose this proposal. Contact the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency telling them you oppose this proposal and that you expect them to protect the quality of your current environment. Start a petition and attend any public meetings.
Fred Luden is a Cottage Grove resident, former site director of 3M’s Cottage Grove plant and a former Cottage Grove City Council member.