Risks to public health and the environment require urgent action by the state and Blue Earth County to attack problems at a commercial compost facility near Good Thunder.
One of the biggest compost facilities in the state, the Midwest Recycling Solutions site poses environmental risks and threatens the quality of life in rural Blue Earth County with persistent and severe odors.
Midwest confirmed on June 24 to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency that it would be shutting down. A county conditional use permit requires action from the company associated with closing. The company had to provide a bond to cover closing costs.
While the county was working with the company earlier this year on an odor reduction plan, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency became concerned with pollutants found in the compost material and in a leachate pond on the site.
Small particles of plastic were found in the product and the waste stream that could threaten groundwater. Called polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), they have been found in compost sites nationwide. They pose threats to human health from high cholesterol to some kinds of cancer.
The company didn’t respond to The Free Press for two stories on the site’s troubles.
Neighbors attended a Blue Earth County planning commission meeting Wednesday night to complain about the smell emanating from the site and the groundwater concerns.
The planning commission could consider pulling the condition use permit at some point if things don’t improve. The state could also revoke its permit to operate.
The operation is no longer taking biodegradable materials for compost, leaving organizations like the St. Peter Food Co-op and others to put them in the waste stream that goes to landfills.
MPCA has been working with the company to find ways to mitigate the impact of the plastic particles on the environment. County land use administrators are asking neighbors to be patient with calls for further action to see if the odor can be significantly reduced by September.
The priorities must be the environment and the quality of life for those who live within the range of odor for the facility.
Midwest Recycling Solutions, and its partner MFS Farms, must meet their obligations to clean up the site. County and state governments must show resolve and hold the company to its obligations. Public health, in this case, should come before private convenience.