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Lein fights BE River dumping

By Staff | Jan 24, 2011

Loren Lein

A former Faribault County commissioner wants to make sure a Martin County ethanol producer does not pollute the Blue Earth River.

On Jan. 14, Loren Lein of Blue Earth began circulating petitions opposing Buffalo Lake Energy’s proposal to dump its wastewater into the river near Blue Earth or Winnebago.

And, the response has been good.

In four days, Lein has been able to collect more than 100 signatures.

Lein says following the mention of his efforts on a KBEW program, his telephone rang off the hook on Tuesday.

“I must have had 30 people call me. I also got another 10 signatures at a Kiwanis meeting I went to,” he says. “It takes a bit to get people excited about something … they are concerned about this.”

BioFuel Energy Corp. has contacted the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) about seeking effluent limits if they pick a new location to put the plant’s treated wastewater. Lee Ganske of the MPCA says BioFuel seeking a different discharge point is related to water quality violations they have had in the past at Center Creek. He says the plant has had water-quality compliance issues since it started operating.

Because the river is a larger body of water, environmental officials believe it would provide plenty of dilution.

At their monthly meeting on Tuesday, county commissioners again discussed BioFuel’s plans and the need to stay on top of the issue.

Commission chairman Tom Warmka says a Buffalo Lake Energy official wants to meet with the board and he suggested 1 p.m. following their regular Feb. 1 meeting. The company is considering two options: • upgrading its existing facility to improve treatment; • building a 20-mile pipeline to discharge its wastewater into the Blue Earth River north of Blue Earth or just south of Winnebago. Last October, operators of the ethanol plant agreed to pay a civil penalty of $285,000 to resolve alleged violations of air and water quality permits. Lein says the county has worked hard to clean up the river by making it mandatory to install new septic systems along the shoreline. He says wastewater from the plant should be dealt with where it is produced and local residents do not want the river to become a cess pool. Three other persons are helping Lein collect the signatures, including one in Winnebago. Lein hopes to have petitions with about 250 names to give the commissioners at their next meeting. He also plans to send them to MPCA officials. “I’m just trying to help the commissioners. They are limited with their time because of the number of issues they work on,” he says. “I’m trying to encourage them to get on this right away. Otherwise, it will be too late.” Lein also has sought the help of District 24 state Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Fairmont) and District 24A Rep. Bob Gunther (R-Fairmont). Despite being told by Gunther the pipeline project is “a done deal,” Lein isn’t going to let that discourage him. “I’m going to keep getting signatures. The residents of Faribault County deserve to be heard,” he says. “We still have a chance to give our input and stop this. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think that.” Anyone interested in having their name added to the list may contact Lein at (507) 526-3995.