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Future of BE brush/compost site uncertain

By Staff | Jul 8, 2012

What to do with their brush/compost site is an issue the Blue Earth City Council is just starting to face.

City public works supervisor Jamison Holland told the council Monday night that the compost portion of the site is not in compliance, and something will need to be done in the future.

“The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) permits the brush site,” Holland says. “And they recently inspected us and we were found to be a top-notch brush site.”

But, Holland says, the compost portion of the site, which comprises leaves and other yard vegetation, is controlled by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

“We are an unlicensed compost site,” Holland says. “Many cities are. But, the MPCA is beginning to inspect sites like these.”

The issue is the compost site generates chemicals such as nitrogen which can leach into the river.

“The problem is that we are on a hillside, with 4,000 to 6,000 yards of vegetation piled up,” Holland says.

The council asked if the leaves can be burned along with the brush, but Holland says that would not be allowed.

“We can burn the wood, branches and tree limbs under the DNR permit, but not the vegetation,” he says.

The answer would be to have enough land to spread out the vegetation in 20-foot wide rows, 150 feet long, that would need to be turned over, composted and then spread on farm fields. If farmers will allow that, Holland quickly adds.

“We can stay ahead of the brush, but it is what to do with the leaves that is the issue,” Holland says.

He adds that the three problems are what to do with it now, what to do with it after it is processed, and what to do in the future.

Holland says without a plan, the site could be shut down. He has been studying the rules on the MPCA website.

“We are scrambling to find out what we can do legally, before the MPCA steps in,” Holland says.

Mayor Rob Hammond says the state should be helping with the solution, instead of cracking down on the problem sites.

Other concerns expressed by the council included increased manpower requirements at the site if the current compost pile needs to be disposed of, and what will happen if city residents are unable to haul leaves to the site each fall.

The council requested that Holland continue to investigate possible solutions and report back at the next council meeting.

In the past, the city has accumulated brush at the site and had a contractor come in to process it.

“We, and many other cities, had a company come in that chipped up the wood and hauled it away to a plant that burned it and turned it into electricity,” City Administrator Kathy Bailey says. “But, they did not show up this year and the wood pile was growing large.”

The city closed the brush site for three days each week and proceeded to burn the brush pile under their DNR permit.

The site is now back to being open on its regular hours.

“We did change the Saturday hours, however,” Bailey says. “Many people wanted it open earlier on Saturdays.”

New Saturday hours are 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.