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Pollution control agency looking into "common" violations at 3M incinerator

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is investigating alleged violations at the 3M corporate hazardous waste incinerator in Cottage Grove, officials from the agency, company and city have confirmed.

An agency official called the missteps "common" for a large hazardous waste facility. But Cottage Grove's mayor said the violation raises some concern at city hall as 3M moves ahead with a proposal to begin burning third-party wastes there.

City officials will meet behind closed doors Tuesday to examine whether the violation impacts the 40-year-old city-issued permit that allowed construction of the incinerator.

Neither 3M nor the pollution control agency would offer many details of the violation, which was observed during a 2008 inspection of the incinerator facility.

By law, pollution control agency officials cannot discuss details of the incident during an active investigation, agency specialist Ray Bissonnette said. He would say, though: "The violations we observed, I would say, they are common to other cases, fairly common violations."

When 3M was apprised of the violations, he said, the company quickly corrected them.

3M Cottage Grove site director Vicki Batroot declined to offer many more details, but said the errors were "administrative-type" issues that concerned paperwork and the labeling of waste.

"We take it very seriously," Batroot said. "We immediately took care of all the recommendations."

Cottage Grove was notified of the investigation last week by the pollution control agency, city officials said.

The violation, considered minor by the state, still worries Mayor Myron Bailey. If 3M committed errors, even administrative ones, in handling its own waste from across North America, why would taking on more waste from a third-party provider not lead to more slips? Bailey asked.

Batroot firmly denied that was a fair assessment.

"We have a very sound process, and that has served us well," she said.

Bailey has pushed for the company to agree to reopen the special use permit. That would allow the city to further restrict what can be burned at the incinerator.

3M has declined the city's request.

The 40-year-old permit is rather vague, Bailey said, meaning it's possible that "there are a couple areas, if you really wanted to make a point, you could use that as a basis for reopening the (permit)."