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Incinerator could go dark July 1

Red Wing is considering turning its incinerator off until questions about a potential grant and enforcement of state law are resolved.

Red Wing City Council discussed the city's waste-to-energy operations at a meeting Monday night, directing staff to move ahead with an interim plan for a temporary outage at the city's solid waste campus.

The council heard a lengthy presentation from Jeff Schneider, the deputy director of Public Works' Solid Waste Division, outlining potential action plans to end subsidies for the incinerator from the city's general fund.

At play are two variables that could affect the facility's future operation, Schneider said.

The first is regarding enforcement of Minnesota Statute 473.848, passed in 1985, which places restrictions on landfill disposal in the Twin Cities area.

Statute 473, if enforced, would bring more waste from the metro to the Red Wing incinerator, Schneider said. That would bring operations at the facility to "optimal capacity" and to make it sustainable in the long term.

But the statute has not been enforced over the years, said Sig Schuerle, a representative from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which assumed control of statewide solid waste duties in 2005.

Opposition from Waste Management, Allied Waste and the Minnesota waste haulers association has prevented enforcement of Statute 473, Schuerle said.

"They kind of like to see things the way they are," he said, but added that MPCA will seek to begin enforcement later this year.

Additional shredder

The second variable that could affect the city's incinerator is the application for a $2 million grant from the Xcel Renewable Energy Development Fund.

The city proposes using the existing waste-to-energy facility to shred waste to create refuse derived fuel or RDF to be sent to the Xcel Red Wing Generation Station, locally known as the steam plant.

City staff has negotiated an agreement with Xcel to deliver RDF to the generation station along Fifth Street and Highway 61 starting July 1, Schneider said.

But the city's current facility is not able to shred waste small enough to fulfill Xcel's standards, and so an additional shredder would have to be purchased, he added.

The additional shredder could be rented for around $420,000 a year, or purchased for between $450,000 and $795,000, Schneider said.

Council members voiced concern as to how the city would pay for the shredder.

Schneider said funding would come from trading in an existing shredder, discounted disposal rates through Xcel and shifting waste-to-energy staff costs to other areas in the Public Works budget.

The city will not know if it will receive the Xcel grant until Oct. 1, Schneider said.

Moving forward

Public Works Director Rick Moskwa helped conclude the discussion by asking the council to make a decision on a course of action.

"We need some kind of direction to continue to move forward," he said.

Council President Lisa Bayley clarified that the council's plan is to institute an extended outage of waste-to-energy operations starting July 1, while pursuing the purchase of an additional shredder to meet the requirements of the contract signed with Xcel.

Once the city knows more about enforcement of Statute 473 and the status of the Xcel grant, City Council could then revisit discussion for the future of operations, she added.

"I think this gives us the most options," Bayley said. "I think this is the way we need to go."

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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