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More cleanup likely for Buffalo Lake Biofuels site, and possibly more criminal charges

Renville County is waiting for results of an asbestos inspection at the site of the former Buffalo Lake Biofuels plant, which the County Board of Commissioners describe as an eyesore. The county attorney said one person has been charged for theft of materials there, and it is possible that others could be charged.

Ethanol plant in Buffalo Lake, Minn.FILE.jpg
The Buffalo Lake Biofuels facility, shown in this 2012 file photo, has been razed and removed. The former owner of the site faces two felony theft charges alleging he directed the sale of four electrical transformers at the site belonging to the McLeod Power Cooperative. (Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune file photo)

OLIVIA — More cleanup work, and possibly additional criminal charges, are likely as Renville County works to address what the Board of Commissioners has called an eyesore at the former site of the Buffalo Lake Biofuels plant along U.S. Highway 212.

Most of the materials at the site have been removed since the former Buffalo Lake Biofuels facility ceased operations. However, there remain some tanks, steel and concrete at the site.

Earlier this year, Renville County filed two felony theft charges against former property owner Leo Fischer, 52, of Lakewood, New Jersey. In the criminal complaint, the county alleges that the defendant instructed a person performing site cleanup to remove and sell four electrical transformers at the site. The transformers belonged to the McLeod County Power Cooperative, which reported them missing Nov. 6, 2019.

See related: Former owner of Buffalo Lake Biofuels charged with felony theft

Fischer has maintained his innocence and the case is currently in Renville County District Court.

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County Attorney David Torgelson told the Renville County Board of Commissioners at its meeting Dec. 9 that charges against other individuals for suspected thefts that occurred at the site are possible. There appears to be evidence that a number of people may have made off with materials from the site, he told the commissioners.

Plans to complete the cleanup are contingent on the results of an inspection of the site for asbestos, County Auditor Marc Iverson told the commissioners. He reported that a firm had been retained for the inspection, and he has been asking them for its results.

The auditor said the county has been advised not to remove or touch anything at the site until the results of that inspection are known.

The county’s Public Works Department has secured the site and inspected tanks there to assure that there is no risk of leaking material, according to Commissioner Randy Kramer.

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