By Anna Jauhola
Residents and landowners in Deerwood Township in Kittson County are concerned about one man’s plan to break down wind turbine blades for disposal.
The Deerwood Township Board held an informational meeting on Monday, Dec. 16 at the town hall just north of Highway 11 and west of Karlstad. Although the meeting concerned the recent and impending actions of Troy Peterson, he did not attend the meeting. However, about 20 residents and landowners asked questions regarding Peterson’s operations.
Peterson has a type of machine that will break down first-generation wind turbine blades into small enough chunks to be legally placed in landfills. The concerned citizens who attended the meeting are worried about the effects of this operation, such as harmful dust from the fiberglass in the blades, as well as noise. While Peterson has told county and state officials that the machine he uses has a feature to minimize or eliminate dust, the citizens aren’t convinced.
Many of them stated throughout the meeting, and agreed with officials, that trust is a major issue because they have witnessed Peterson’s disregard for the rules. Several voiced their frustrations with Peterson not meeting any of the conditions in a conditional use permit he obtained in 2007 for a salvaging operation on the same land in question for this issue. Even though he said the operation would last between seven and 10 days, those gathered just wanted assurance he’d meet all conditions of that permit and that he’d be monitored.
“This seven-to-10 day trial stuff is not the primary concern,” said Mike Sollund, who lives directly adjacent to the property upon which Peterson has stored the blades. “It’s the seven to 10 years of putting up with this nightmare again is the concern.”
Peterson’s original conditional use permit, which he could use for this operation if he met all the conditions, required the following: remove the burning barrel; install 20-by-20 cement slab for drainage collection; install a fence between Peterson/Sollund properties; no operations on Sundays and hours of business Monday through Friday are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with occasional work on Saturdays; no storage of hazardous materials within 150 feet of drinking wells; the north entrance must be gated; unannounced samples of drinking well water; must have an oil contingency plan in place prior to operation; must have a rainwater runoff plan prior to operating; and the county zoning administrator must deem conditions are met before operations begin.
County Administrator Eric Christensen attended the meeting and verified that Peterson has never met any of these conditions, except removing the burning barrel. Although many of these conditions don’t apply to the operation Peterson is proposing, he would still need to meet them before legally operating under that permit, Christensen said.
Jon Buck, pollution control specialist with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, attended the meeting to help explain Peterson’s possible application for a permit through the MPCA.
He said, through discussions with Peterson, MPCA has suggested he apply for a Demonstration Research Project permit because the operation is meant to be temporary. He said as long as the turbine pieces aren’t openly burned, it is supposed to be all right.
“I do know he was in contact with air permit engineers with the state and he had to submit a potential-to-emit calculation,” Buck said. “Based on that information, they determined that he would not need an air quality permit.”
Buck said MPCA has not issued Peterson a permit yet, but will take the citizens’ concerns into consideration. He said the state wants to make sure any operation is healthy and safe for everybody.
Christensen said the county has also again reached out to Peterson to offer him the possibility of applying for a conditional use permit with more appropriate conditions.
Deerwood Township resident Mike Lorenson suggested Peterson could try the operation for a few hours to see what kind of noise, dust and other issues it may cause before continuing the whole project.
Sollund remained concerned, not about the permit or the operation itself, but the idea that he would have to live next to that kind of operation again. He said no one minds the operation itself, but they object to how Peterson himself operates. Sollund likened Peterson’s actions to “bringing chaos to the neighborhood.”
“You can’t even begin to imagine every night, all week, Sunday night. It doesn’t matter what conditions were put on, like you say, none of it was met,” Sollund said. “And how it was allowed to keep going and going after he was gone. Now we’re just scared to death we’re going to have to live with this again for any length of time.”
Christensen said, and Buck agreed, that if Peterson never obtains a permit or meets the conditions of the current permit, he cannot perform the operation in that location.
Commissioner Leon Olson also attended the meeting and responded to citizens’ concerns that should Peterson begin operating sans permit, will law enforcement handle the situation. Olson said if there are violations, the county will cite him.
On Tuesday, Dec. 17, Christensen told the Enterprise that Peterson contacted him, saying he is considering moving this operation to property he owns east of Karlstad, which is zoned commercial, with no conditions. However, a good portion of that parcel, he said, is defined as public waters through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. This would then require him to obtain a permit through the DNR and adhere to the county’s shoreland ordinance, which Christensen said is more strict.
By Anna Jauhola