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What is it going to do to the kids?

Fri, Oct 4th, 2002
Posted in Features

What is it going to do to the kids? Stuart Corson asked, referring to the possibility that a second industrial plant would be added to the Preston Industrial Park area.

Mr. Corson described a situation where kids at Fillmore Central Elementary and Middle School are playing outside when an exhaust plume from Pro-Corn Ethanol Plant drifts over the school. He talked about the effect on kids with asthma and allergies. He said that his own son complains of nausea from the smell from Pro-Corn. And now the Heartland plant, which will be located near the ethanol plant, will be added to the mix.

What are the long-term effects of this? Corson asked. I am worried about the kids.

About 75 people turned out for a public meeting on Monday, September 30, hosted by staffers from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to discuss the proposed Heartland Energy and Recycling LLC plant. The Heartland plant will use tire-derived fuel to generate electricity.

Using fluid bed technology, it is estimated that Heartland would burn 93,000 tons of tires to produce steam, which in turn would generate electricity that would be sold on the grid. Ash residue and steel extracted from the tires would also be sold.

According to the draft Environmental Assessment Worksheet, the plant has the potential to produce over 800 tons of air pollutants per year. The discharge will include hydrogen chloride, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and other hazardous air pollutants.

Jenny Reinertsen, a mechanical engineer with the MPCA, who will write the Air Emissions Draft Permit, came to Preston to listen to the concerns of citizens and answer technical questions about the plant. According to Reinertsen, the MPCAs role is not to advocate for or against a proposed plant of this type, but to see whether the emissions comply with clean air standards.

Several people who live in north Preston are concerned with what the combined effects of the ethanol and tire plant would do to their lives, as Heartland would be built on the site of the old Evergreen plant. These people claim that they have seen little improvement in air quality since Pro-Corn installed a thermal oxidizer over a month ago and worry that affluent from the power plant will only make matters worse.

The original plant was built to shred tires, and black dust was on everything. Then they manufactured wood logs and brown dust was on everything. Then the ethanol plant came. Now we will have two plumes coming over 30 houses in northwest Preston, Carl Bakalyar, who lives two tenths of a mile from Pro-Corn, said at the meeting.

Reinertsen said that Heartland will be using the best available control technology and that their discharge for individual pollutants fall below state and federal regulations. She said that fluid bed technology is not new, but there use in burning tires is.

If they are meeting the ambient standards, I dont think I see the concerns, Reinertsen said.

Reinertsen went on to say that the data in the Heartland Environmental Assessment Worksheet is based on the use of a screening model used on a similar plant in Modesto, California. She said that the screening model was a conservative one, but that dispersal models can be run that look at a variety of variables, including the combined effects of point source pollution.

Bob Maust, president of Heartland, confirmed that the plant will have the best available technology.

We cant find any more bells and whistles to put on this, he said.

Several people in the audience argued that the tire plant was not the best or cleanest way to generate electricity.

Jon Laging of Preston asked Reinertsen if there was a threshold where a minimum of pollutants is required to generate electricity. Reinertsen answered No, but said she was surprised that there wasnt as it made sense to have a pounds of pollution emitted per MegaWatts produced criterion.

Andrea Kiepe of the Clean Water Action Alliance of Minnesota agreed with Laging that there are cleaner ways of producing electricity.

This (Heartland) is a step backward, Kiepe said.

But Richard Eichstadt, the General Manager of Pro-Corn Ethanol Plant believed that the plant should be permitted if it meets all the environmental standards.

There is a benefit here in using tires to burn as fuel, Eichstadt said. We could all stop driving cars, I guess. He (Maust) is burning up old tires.

To put things in perspective, Reinertsen talked about Urban Soup studies where it is shown that 45% of lung cancer is caused by vehicle emissions; another 35% from fireplace smoke.

Only one percent comes from point source emissions, Reinertsen said.

Andy Bunge noted his frustration with the MPCA process where you have scientific information delivered to a volunteer board.

No matter how well intended the process is, it doesnt meet the legitimate concerns of the citizens, Bunge said. The public doesnt want legalized pollution.

Most of the crowd agreed.

When Reinertsen asked the audience, Do you already feel youre getting too many pollutants? there was a resounding, Yes.

As one woman put it, We already have our icky plant, (refering to the ethanol plant).

* * *

The comment period for the Heartland Power Generating Facility has been extended to October 23. Reinertsen said that some comments received already have called on the MPCA to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement, which could take up to three years and cost several hundred thousands of dollars. She also said that the drafting of the Air Emission Permit will wait until after a decision has been made on whether an EIS is required.

The MPCA board is not expected to decide on the matter until later this year or early 2003.

Comments on the proposed Heartland Energy and Recycling Facility EAW should be submitted to the MPCA in writing by 4:30 p.m. on October 23, 2002 to Kevin Kain, MPCA, 520 Lafayette Road North, St. Paul, MN 55155 or by fax to (651)296-7782 or by email to

Copies of the EAW are available for review at the Preston Public Library and the Fillmore County Courthouse or at the MPCA website

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