Commentary: Pretty Red Wing... the home of Mount Xcel?The city is considering granting Xcel Energy a conditional-use permit to allow a substantial expansion of the ash refuse landfill off of Bench Street. The Red Wing Planning Commission has a meeting Nov. 20 to hear from all sides prior to making a recommendation to the City Council.
By: Dave Bahl, The Republican Eagle
The city is considering granting Xcel Energy a conditional-use permit to allow a substantial expansion of the ash refuse landfill off of Bench Street. The Red Wing Planning Commission has a meeting Nov. 20 to hear from all sides prior to making a recommendation to the City Council.
This will be the only opportunity for citizens to voice their public concerns.
I would first like to present a little history of how this ash refuse landfill came about.
In 1987, Xcel's coal-fired steam generator was converted to burn an alternative fuel. It has since burned refuse-derived fuel or RDF as a source to produce electricity.
RDF is garbage that has been processed to remove all recyclables and non-combustible items. The resultant ash has to be hauled somewhere and since 1987 this has been Red Wing.
What I find disturbing is that for 25 years we've been the dumping grounds of other communities’ burned garbage. This garbage comes from a processing plant in Newport whose website reports it receives solid wastes from several Minnesota counties that are mostly in the metro area. This is over a million cubic yards of burned garbage coming from somewhere else.
A conditional-use permit is written governmental permission allowing a use that is inconsistent with zoning but necessary for the common good. Since 1987, Xcel has requested and has been granted four permits to expand. This will be the fifth request for expansion.
The current proposed permit would allow Xcel to add almost 1 million additional cubic yards of ash refuse storage to the existing landfill. This would increase the landfill capacity from 1.4 million cubic yards to 2.4 million cubic yards.
The expanded landfill would be 50 feet higher than the existing west cell and 25 feet higher than the existing east cell. This would be equivalent to adding a five-story pile of burned garbage to the existing height of the landfill.
In addition, Xcel would construct a 14-acre pond to attempt to hold the runoff from this huge pile of ash refuse.
Up to 18 trucks per day would be hauling burned refuse to the site, plus an additional 45 trucks per day during the construction of the retention pond. Trucking would be allowed from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.
This huge expansion is not taking place somewhere out in the country. This expansion is taking place right inside the city limits next to the Tyler Hills residential subdivision, the Fairview Boulevard multi-family housing units and just on the other side of the bluff from our shopping, day care, banking and healthcare facilities.
In 1987, these places did not exist in our city, so I suspect zoning issues were not a huge concern.
This expansion will be harmful to the adjoining residential properties. The increased noise and dust from all of the trucks hauling burned garbage and construction materials will make living next to the landfill like living next to a construction site. The huge pile of burned garbage will be clearly visible from neighboring properties, making it difficult or impossible to live in or sell the homes next door.
Further, the ash landfill will no longer be used just to store burned garbage from the Red Wing Xcel plant. In addition, Xcel requests to haul burned garbage from its plant in La Crosse, Wis. So now Red Wing will have the distinction of being the burned garbage storage capital of the Midwest.
I fail to see how this conditional-use permit is necessary for the common good of Red Wing. I am concerned that there will never be an end to these expansion requests and my children and grandchildren will someday have to deal with this issue.
But mostly, I am concerned that all this happens without the public being informed.
I urge people to find out more for themselves and show up to the November meeting to be heard. You may have different opinions than mine, but I really feel that issues this ominous need to have our input so City leaders know how we feel.
Please don't let Nov. 20 come and go like the prior four conditional-use permit requests with little or no public input.