By Drew Hatzenbihler
Solid Waste Administrator
This has been a crazy year thus far, during the initial response to the pandemic when many business were closed, we observed many people doing some “quaran-cleaning.” We had an increase in the number of people we normally see each year and have met a lot of people for the first time. We have also seen an increase in the amount of materials being dumped illegally around the county.
Those of you that use Fillmore County’s remote recycling sites have likely seen that people have been using them to illegally get rid of all sorts of materials. This year alone, I have personally removed several gallons of used motor oil, hazardous waste, electronics, furniture, scrap wood, televisions, used kitty litter, carpeting and many more items. Not only is dumping these materials at remote sites or anywhere other than a designated trash facility illegal, it is also dangerous, harmful to the environment, and expensive for everyone. Illegal dumping adversely affects every resident of Fillmore County. For individuals, illegal dumping is a misdemeanor charge and minimum $500 fine. It is important to remember that these sites are not a permanent fixture in the county. Your tax dollars pay for the use of the recycling dumpsters as well as the collection and transport of the materials each week. If our residents can’t play by the rules, the decision to get rid of the sites becomes an easy one. This means that the only free recycling option for county residents becomes curbside pickup, which many residents don’t have access to, or driving the materials to the Resource Recovery Center in Preston.
I know that because of the cancellation of our spring hazardous waste collection and “quaran-cleaning” many people have a large amount of hazardous waste they’re wanting to dispose of; however, illegal dumping is not the answer. These chemicals can easily contaminate surface and groundwater and cause serious problems for people, animals, and the environment. Most of the materials we have found are easy and free to dispose of. Our Resource Recovery Center collects used oil and antifreeze for free year-round. Paintcare.org has free options for disposal of paint year-round at locations in Rochester and Winona. We are currently planning to hold a fall collection event in October; keep an eye on your newspaper at the end of September for any related announcements.
If you plan to use the remote recycling sites, remember to check the labels on the dumpsters at the remote sites for what can be recycled there. For example, while metal is recyclable, larger metal items are not recyclable at the remote recycling sites and should be brought directly to the Resource Recovery Center instead. Anything that doesn’t fit in the dumpsters cannot be recycled at the remote sites and must be brought directly to the larger recycling facility at the Resource Recovery Center or kept until the dumpsters are emptied and there is more room. If dumpsters are full, please do not place items on the ground outside the dumpsters as the materials tend to blow around. The dumpsters are emptied each week so if you check back in a few days there is likely to be more room. In response to the overfilled dumpsters we saw in Spring Valley this spring, we have put larger dumpsters at that location to ensure we have adequate space for the amount of recycling that was being received.
We appreciate everyone’s help in making sure these sites stay clean to ensure that the county can continue to offer them as a resource for residents. As always, if you have questions or concerns, please call (507) 765-4704 and our team would be happy to help you in any way we can.