Viewpoint: Mayor on Cottage Grove's incinerator stance
By: Myron Bailey, South Washington County Bulletin
In 1970, the City Council of Cottage Grove, a community of about 10,000 persons at the time, issued a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to allow the 3M Company to build and operate a hazardous waste incinerator on their Cottage Grove plant site. That incinerator received a significant upgrade in 1998 which dramatically reduced air emissions from the facility. In 2009, in response to reductions in company generated waste product availability, 3M proposed to import 3rd party waste as a fuel source for the incinerator.
As a result of concerns regarding this 2009 proposal the Cottage Grove City Council created an Environmental Task Force. This Task Force studied the Incinerator emissions and determined that those emissions were well within the limits allowed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) although it was clear that allowing 3rd party waste would increase emissions from current levels. The Task Force recommended, and the Council adopted on November 4, 2009, recommendations to the MPCA regarding future operations and permitting of the incinerator. The City Council pressed for additional restrictions at that time but was limited by the inability to reopen the CUP absent agreement to do so from 3M, which has not occurred.
In response to continuing concerns held by the public and the City Council, the City took an additional step on February 3, 2010 to limit the future operations of the incinerator by prohibiting commercial waste incineration facilities which are defined as “those selling the service of third party hazardous waste incineration.” Input from the public received on February 3 included results of an independent survey conducted by Decision Resources (DRI). That survey noted that by almost a 2:1 margin the citizens of Cottage Grove oppose the burning of 3rd party wastes at the 3M facility.
In reaction to our ongoing concerns and those found to exist within the community through the DRI survey, on February 5, 2010 I mailed a letter to 3M CEO George Buckley requesting that we “discuss a solution to, or mitigation of, the current and future impacts upon this community from 3M related environmental issues within our community.” The City will also continue to press state agencies to ensure the safety of incinerator operations.