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MPCA: “This facility is not a significant health risk”

Fri, May 16th, 2003
Posted in Features

“This seems like a show,” Bonita Underbakke said near the end of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) public information meeting in Preston on Tuesday . “Does what these people say have anything to do with whether they will have a tire burning plant or not?”

Underbakke was of the opinion that any comments the public of Preston had about the Heartland tire plant would make little difference in whether the MPCA would issue the tire plant an air emission permit.

Underbakke was one of 17 people to make comments or ask questions at the meeting held at the Preston United Methodist Church to discuss the draft air emission permit being proposed for Heartland Energy & Recycling LLC. Heartland plans to construct and operate a 20 MW energy plant that will convert tire-derived fuel into electricity.

At the beginning of the meeting, MPCA staff made a short presentation about the facility, the kinds of pollutants that will be generated and how those emissions will be monitored.

“Given the pollution control equipment, this is a comparatively clean plant,” Jenny Reinertsen, an MPCA staff engineer told the audience. Reinertsen is the principle author of the draft air permit being considered for Heartland.

Following Reinertsen was Greg Burger, an engineer who handles enforcement in eight counties of southeast Minnesota for the MPCA.

Berger said that Heartland is required to conduct ongoing testing of its pollution control equipment, monitor emissions and report regularly to the MPCA. He said that he would carry out an unannounced site inspection of the plant at least once every two years.

When this latter point generated some disbelief from the audience, Reinertsen said that one of the comments people may want to make to the MPCA would be that inspections be carried out more frequently than once every two years.

After the meeting, responding to a Journal question, Mike Tibbits, MPCA Section Manager, said it was unlikely that the inspection frequency would be increased on Heartland because he only had five inspectors to cover 500 plants in the entire state.

“This plant will have to conduct regular tests and keep ongoing records,” Tibbits said, downplaying the need for increased inspections. “If they are not in compliance our engineer will know about it.”

Public Comment

During the public comment period Chuck Michael of Rochester stated that because fossil fuels are used in making tires he believed criteria pollutant standards should be used to measure emissions. But Reinertsen said that the EPA has already reviewed the draft permit and has commented on the issue Michael referred to.

Michael also asked about whether there was an Ash Management Plan to handle any hazardous waste that may be found in the ash residue from the combustion process. Tibbits assured Michael that anytime a waste is produced, it must be evaluated.

“If it is a hazardous waste, it has to be managed appropriately,” Tibbits said.

Tom Trent of Preston asked for guarantees from Heartland and the MPCA for the health of his family.

Don Smith of the MPCA assured Trent that the permit meets requirements.

‘The EAW that was conducted showed that this facility is not a significant health risk,” Smith said.

Janene Roessler of rural Preston asked why emission estimates for Heartland were based on the proposed Rialto plant in California that was never built.

Reinertsen said the the Rialto data was based on pilot testing from EPI in Idaho.

“We looked at the test pilot data and then looked at other sources of data for aberrations. This included data from tire-derived plants in Exeter, Connecticut and Modesto, California,” Reinertsen said.

Stack Disbursement

Several questions were asked about emission disbursement.

Using an illustration, Fran Sauer of Preston asked how the twin stacks of Pro-Corn and Heartland, which will be 300 feet apart, could “not impact the same locations”, as was reported in the draft permit.

Reinertsen explained that with Heartland’s stack at 210 feet and Pro-Corn’s at 62 feet, the disbursement will be different, as the maximum impact of each plant will not be at the same geographical point.

Kay Laging, who said she uses an inhaler, asked about climate inversions and whether local climate and wind patterns had been used in the modeling.

Ed Liebsch of MDR Engineering, a consultant for Heartland, spoke about disbursement modeling. Liebsch said that ‘screening’ modeling, which was used by the MPCA, is the most conservative in that you use all weather conditions and stability classes and look for significance levels in the data.

“Stacks are a good engineering practice in that it decreases the projected impact,” Liebsch said. “Heartland just has too tall of a stack to have an impact.”


Mary Fisher of Preston questioned whether the other tire burning facilities had any odor.

“In Modesto and Connecticut, does it smell?” Fisher asked.

Reinertsen said that this is something that they (MPCA) could find out, by looking at complaints on odor. She vowed to find out what she could about this matter and inform those interested.

Reinertsen spent the last several minutes explaining that citizens unhappy with the outcome of the permit process can ask for a contested case hearing and ultimately appeal any determinations. The meeting lasted nearly three hours. The MPCA is expected to make a decision sometime in July on the air permit application.

The public comment period has been extended to May 23. Comments, requests and petitions can be mailed to Jenny Reinertsen, Majors and Remediation Division, MPCA, 525 Lake Avenue South, Suite 400, Duluth, MN 55802. She can be contacted by phone at 218 723-4760 or fax at 218-723-4727 or by email at jenny.reinertsen@pca.state.

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