3M plan to burn outside waste at Cottage Grove incinerator OK'd by stateAfter a more than three-year slog, a state pollution control board has cleared the way for 3M to begin burning hazardous waste it does not produce at the company’s Cottage Grove incinerator.
After a more than three-year slog, a state pollution control board has cleared the way for 3M to begin burning hazardous waste it does not produce at the company’s Cottage Grove incinerator.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Citizens’ Board ruled unanimously in favor of 3M at a hearing Tuesday in St. Paul, rejecting a group of Cottage Grove residents’ request to deny the proposed permits and ordering the Agency’s staff to reissue new permits for the facility nearly 40 months after the company first publicly proposed its plan to supplement its own shrinking supply of solvent hazardous waste with wastes from other companies.
"We're obviously pleased with the approval of our permit," Vickie Batroot, site director at 3M's 745-employee Cottage Grove plant, said following the vote.
The decision marks the likely end of a three-year fight between the company and the Coalition of Concerned Citizens of Cottage Grove, a group of residents -- headed by former 3M Cottage Grove site director and Cottage Grove City Council member Fred Luden – that has fiercely opposed the changes they said would lead to higher levels of pollution in city already dealing with groundwater contaminated with 3M-manufactured chemicals.
3M already burns waste it produces at plants across North America at the 41-year-old incinerator facility – the company’s only in the world -- in Cottage Grove. But, company officials have said, increases in efficiency have led to less solvent wastes.
To keep the incinerator operating efficiently it has used large amounts of natural gas to supplement its own waste; the non-3M solvents would replace that fuel, 3M says, saving the company up to $2 million per year.
3M will not receive compensation for the waste. Company officials have touted the plan to take on outside wastes as a cost-saving and environmentally-friendly measure aimed at reducing the amount of fossil fuels the incinerator burns.
Coalition members and some local elected officials have disagreed over the past three years. Mike Houston, who lives roughly a mile from the 3M plant and testified alongside his wife on Tuesday, questioned the benefit to the state in allowing the company to import waste to Cottage Grove.
"There's no increase in taxes to the state of Minnesota. There's no new jobs being created. There's no new products being created,” Houston said. “There’s nothing. All there is is just more pollution being created. That’s it."
MPCA and 3M officials, however, have asserted the increase in emissions would be small and that the rewritten permits are actually stricter than those the incinerator operated under previously.
New provisions written into the amended permits include limits on what wastes could be accepted from outside sources – and how much of it could be burned each year – in addition to a requirement that 3M conduct a lengthy update of a detailed risk assessment to determine if there is any added risk to human health from the changes. The new permits also lower many emission limits and require more stringent testing of non-3M waste.
“We’ve adjusted the permits quite a bit,” said Jeff Smith, manager of the MPCA’s industrial division. The permits governing air emissions and hazardous waste at the incinerator “are much more restrictive than they otherwise would be.”
Coalition consultant Alan Muller said he had largely expected the Board's ruling in favor of 3M. Nonetheless, he said, the permits are better for area residents now than they would have been without the three-year carried on by the group even after the city of Cottage Grove agreed to stop formally opposing the plan in 2010 in exchange for air monitoring near the plant.
"All the agitation by the Coalition, by the residents, improved the permit, yes," Muller said.