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Incinerator expansion plan goes smoothly

There wasn't any public outcry at a special meeting Tuesday night about the addition of a third combustor at Pope Douglas Solid Waste Management (PDSWM).

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) hosted a public meeting at Alexandria Technical College about the proposed expansion at the waste-to-energy facility located on Jefferson Street in Alexandria.

About a couple dozen people attended the meeting and the majority of those were affiliated with the facility in some way, such as representatives from the facility itself, along with representatives from Douglas County Hospital and 3M, which both receive steam from PDSWM.

Three Douglas County commissioners - Dan Olson, Norm Salto and Jerry Johnson - also attended.

During the meeting, two people affiliated with PDSWM and two MPCA persons made presentations.

Pete Olmscheid, executive director of the facility, spoke briefly about PDSWM, explaining that he and his staff have always strived to be good stewards of the county and the communities served by the waste-to-energy facility.

Ed Hoefs from Wenck and Associates, an environmental engineering firm, gave a PowerPoint presentation with information about PDSWM's background, the existing combustors, the proposed new combustor and air pollution control equipment.

The PDSWM combustors were constructed in 1986 and the facility began to accept solid waste in 1987. A recycling program was adopted in 1988 and the Household Hazardous Waste drop-off and reuse center opened in 1993.

Hoefs noted that the recycling drop center was opened in 1997.

In 2003, the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) was constructed to remove more recyclable material from the waste stream and reduce emissions by removing problem material.

Currently, the existing plant can handle up to 120 tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) per day - two units each are capable of 60 tons of MSW per day.

The proposed new combustor will be big enough to handle 120 tons of MSW per day by itself, which would double the facility's current load.

The expansion will satisfy the needs of PDSWM for the next 20 to 25 years - until 2030 to 2035.

The expansion will add approximately 10 employees, said Hoefs.

Steam produced at the facility is used at 3M and Douglas County Hospital, said Hoefs, adding that excess steam is used to generate up to 500 kilowatts of electricity.

With the expansion, the additional steam will be purchased by existing customers, as well as new customers, which would include Alexandria Technical College.

He stressed that air pollution control technologies in the current two combustors reduce air emissions well below applicable regulations and that the third combustor will have air pollution control technologies identical to the current combustors.

The expansion will reduce MSW sent to landfills, as well as help to fulfill Minnesota's renewable energy objectives.

Kevin Kain with the MPCA spoke briefly about the environmental assessment worksheet (EAW).

He said an EAW is an information-gathering document, not a permitting or approval document. It is a guide for governmental units in issuing, amending or denying permits.

The public comment period for an EAW on the PDSWM expansion began on November 2 and will run until December 2.

In addition there is a public comment period for the Air Emissions Permit, which began on November 4 and will end on December 4.

Kain noted that public comments for both the EAW and the Air Emissions Permit must be in writing.

Comments, concerns and questions about the EAW can be sent via mail to:

Kevin Kain, MPCA

520 Lafayette Road

St. Paul, MN 55155

He can be reached via e-mail at or by calling (651) 757-2482.

Comments, concerns and questions about the Air Emissions Permit can be sent to:

Bruce Braaten, MPCA

18 Wood Lake Drive SE

Rochester, MN 55904

They can also be sent via fax to Braaten at (507) 280-5513 or by e-mail to

During the public comment period at Tuesday's meeting, only a few questions were asked. One person wanted to know what constitutes a request for an Environmental Impact Study (EIS). He wanted to know if anyone could request one.

He was told that basically, yes, anyone can make a request for an EIS.

Another person asked what the cost for an EIS was. He was told that there isn't a set price and that it would be hard to determine what the cost would be because there are so many different factors.

"It's complicated," said one of the MPCA representatives.

In addition, the representative noted that both the EAW and an EIS are information documents and that they help in determining whether or not a permit would be issued.