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Residents oppose Duininck asphalt storage project north of Granite Falls

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GRANITE FALLS -- Plans by Duininck Inc. of Prinsburg to erect an industrial transfer and storage facility for asphalt cement are facing opposition from many of the rural residents who will live within its shadow.

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Companies can pay fines and move on, but the residents will have to live with the consequences if things don't go as promised, David Haroldson told representatives of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on Thursday evening. "Down the road, what do you do?" said Haroldson to express his concerns about the project.

He was among approximately 30 people who attended the hearing on an environmental assessment worksheet completed by the MPCA on the project.

The facility is proposed to be built on a sidetrack of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail line at Asbury, about five miles north of Granite Falls.

MPCA staff said the recently completed environmental assessment worksheet finds that the company will be meeting requirements to protect against groundwater contamination.

The state agency will not recommend that a more stringent environmental impact statement be required when the MPCA citizens board takes up the matter on Feb. 23, according to Karen Kromar, who oversaw the worksheet for the agency.

The Prinsburg company is seeking permits to erect a 130-foot tall by 45-foot diameter, above-ground tank to hold 3,971,000 gallons of asphalt cement. The company will build infrastructure to eventually allow the construction of four such tanks at the site, according to Jason Ver Steeg, engineer with Duininck Inc.

He told residents that the company is "going over and above" to minimize the impact of the facility on them. There are three homes in immediate proximity to the site, with property lines 199 feet, 207 and 768 feet from it. One of the nearest homes belongs to an employee of Duininck Inc.

The asphalt cement will be brought to the site by rail cars during the winter. An average of 10 trucks per day -- up to 40 a day during peak times -- would haul the asphalt cement to road building sites during the May through November construction season.

The company will install an activated carbon system to capture emissions of hydrogen sulfide and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon vapors during loading and unloading operations.

The system is 99 percent efficient, according to Kromar.

Above-ground storage tanks do not require air quality permits, but the MPCA is requiring the emissions control system in this case to address resident concerns, according to Sandra Johnson, MPCA project engineer.

MPCA representatives said the company will also be meeting water quality requirements. Steam will be used to thaw rail cars for unloading, and most of the steam will be captured and held in a 6,000-gallon tank for eventual treatment at the Willmar wastewater treatment plants.

Ver Steeg said the company will also be building a large earthen berm to screen the site from residents. It will build a paved access to minimize dust, and a circular loading path will mean trucks need not use back up horns and can keep noise at a minimum.

Area residents expressed concerns about the potential for odors, the increased truck traffic on Chippewa County Road 5, and their fears for groundwater contamination from the activities. There are 42 wells within a 2.2-mile radius of the site, and the city of Granite Falls is looking at expanding its well field in the area as well, residents said.

Some said they believed the proximity of an industrial operation to their homes will adversely affect their property values.

Jeff Muhl, who lives near the site, suggested that Duininck's plan is putting residents at risk and harming property values without compensation. "You want us to live with a $1 million project in our front yard or our back yards," he said.

Others pointed to the company's disputes with property owners in both Renville and Kandiyohi counties, and said they feared the company would not meet its pledge to be a good neighbor.

Ver Steeg said the company intended to be so, and said it did not believe the project would adversely affect property values. "We don't believe there will be any impact," he said.

Residents said they want the MPCA to require the company to complete an environmental impact statement for the project. They said the social and economic impacts should be considered, and that there should be greater scrutiny of the environmental issues.

If the MPCA citizens board approves the environmental assessment worksheet on the project, the permitting process will return to Chippewa County. Duininck Inc. is seeking to have the site rezoned from agricultural to industrial use, and would also need a conditional use permit from the county to erect the tanks. The county has held hearings on those requests, but the process was put on hold while the MPCA completed the environmental assessment.

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Tom Cherveny
Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.
(320) 214-4335
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