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State accepting public comment on proposed 3M incinerator changes

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is accepting public comments on proposed changes to permits governing the 3M Co.'s hazardous waste incinerator in Cottage Grove that would allow the company to accept burnable wastes from non-3M sources. It is a proposal that drew fierce criticism in the community before it was delayed in 2010.

3M can import hazardous wastes with fuel value from outside its own operations to supplement the company's diminishing waste stream under the proposed changes that 3M first requested in early 2009. It will also be allowed to burn controlled substance waste from Minnesota law enforcement agencies.

3M says there will be no increase in emissions. The change is needed, the company says, because its own supply of hazardous waste chemicals that have been destroyed in the Cottage Grove incinerator since the 1970s have fallen due to increased efficiency in the company's North American operations.

To make up for that drop, 3M has supplemented its waste with fossil fuels to keep the incinerator burning at peak efficiency. Vicki Batroot, the site director at 3M Cottage Grove, has said the move will save the company up to $2 million per year.

The MPCA will accept public comments on proposed changes to the hazardous waste and air emissions permits by email and in writing through April 23. A public meeting on the changes is scheduled for Tuesday, April 10 at Cottage Grove Middle School.

Cottage Grove residents turned out in force at meetings in 2009 and 2010 to oppose the proposal, but city officials dropped their formal opposition to the plan when the city and company struck a deal to conduct ambient air monitoring near the 3M Cottage Grove campus.

Results from the first year of testing showed levels of air pollutants in the city are on par with other areas of the metro, according to a report delivered to the City Council in January.

Mayor Myron Bailey and council member Justin Olsen said Wednesday the city's Environmental Commission and its environmental consultant would examine the permits and advise the council on possible comments to the pollution control agency.