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Environmental assessment bodes well for Buffalo Lake Biofuels site cleanup

A recent environmental assessment and asbestos inspection found no roadblocks to removing structures, concrete and other surface materials at the site of the former Buffalo Lake Advanced Biofuels facility.

The former Advanced Biofuels plant in Buffalo Lake, Minn. The main facility has been removed, but cooling towers, concrete and other structures, including a hoop building, remain.
The former Advanced Biofuels plant in Buffalo Lake, Minnesota, is shown in this undated file photo. The main facility has been removed, but cooling towers, concrete and other structures, including a hoop building, remain.
West Central Tribune file photo

OLIVIA — The Renville County Board of Commissioners is eager to get cleanup underway at the former Buffalo Lake Advanced Biofuels site located along U.S. Highway 212 in Buffalo Lake.

Commissioners learned on March 15 that a Phase 1 environmental assessment of the approximately 17-acre site as well as an asbestos inspection indicated there are no roadblocks to removing top surface materials and structures at the site.

County Auditor/Treasurer Marc Iverson told the commissioners that SEH Consultants has indicated that the assessment and inspection found no issues.

He pointed out that there is strong interest in moving forward. “We know people in Buffalo Lake deserve a cleaned up site so their city and our county look better,” he said.

The commissioners informally agreed that the auditor/treasurer and Jordan Zeller, director of the county’s Economic Development Authority, should work with the county’s executive committee to recommend the steps to initiate a cleanup.

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Board Chairman Randy Kramer and other commissioners said they would like to move the cleanup forward as soon as possible to assure that contractors are available.

Iverson said there remain some structures on the site, along with lots of concrete, cooling towers and other materials. The main structure and items were previously removed.

The property is tax-forfeited, and the county is responsible for it.

The commissioners would like to see the site sold to someone interested in developing it.

As it is a former industrial site, the county could limit the scope of potential buyers for it to persons actually interested in developing it, according to Iverson. That would reduce the risk of a public sale in which someone might buy it strictly to salvage the remaining items, and then abandon it.

Kramer said potential buyers are cautious at this point. They’d like to see a more comprehensive environmental assessment of the site to determine if there are hazardous materials or other issues underground. There are known to be electrical wires and piping in the ground.

Iverson said if a developer expresses interest in the site, there are state funds to assist with further environmental analysis that the county on its own may not be able to obtain. A Phase 2 environmental assessment could costs tens of thousands of dollars, according to discussions at the meeting.

The commissioners said they hope at their next meeting to review recommendations on how to move forward. Kramer said that the environmental and asbestos work done to this point “bode well” for moving forward.

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at tcherveny@wctrib.com or by phone at 320-214-4335.
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