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Minnesota landfill seeks permission to accept friable asbestos

The owners of a landfill in southeastern Minnesota want to begin accepting waste contaminated with dangerous asbestos fibers.


According to the Austin Post Bulletin, the owners of the Vonco/Veit landfill, just north of Austin, have applied for a conditional use permit that would allow the site to accept friable asbestos. The Mower County Planning Commission voted to deny the request, but the final decision, due April 24, rests with the Mower County Board.


Building materials and insulation manufactured before the 1970s are laden with asbestos, a known carcinogen. Intact, asbestos is considered harmless by health experts. But when damaged by deterioration or during demolition, microscopic fibers are released that, when inhaled, cause mesothelioma, a deadly cancer of the linings of the lung and abdomen, and other respiratory illness.


Bill and Bonnie Ryther, who live less than a half-mile away from the landfill, told the county board at a meeting Tuesday they are concerned about Vonco’s plans.


"Whether you talk nice about it or not, asbestos is a killer product," said Bill Ryther, according to the newspaper. "Who will enforce the conditions you put on them? They don't take good care of the conditions there now."


Ryther claims the facility promised to plant trees and put a fence around the site, and blacktop the driveway. None of those was done, he said.


Bonnie Ryther told the board granting the permit would represent “an illegal taking” of the couple’s property.


"We haven't been derogatory or shot guns at them or anything,” she said. “I don't think we're asking too much to ask you to stop this one thing."


Ian Vagle, a representative of Vonco Inc., cited a letter from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency that says the conditional use permit is "a minor modification, since it will not result in an actual or potential increase in the emission or discharge of a pollutant into the environment."


According to the Post-Bulletin, Vagle said the landfill would at least double the amount of required soil cover and refuse delivery if the winds are more than 10 mph, in addition to other regulatory conditions. The company cares about the public and the environment, he said, "but first and foremost, our employees will be taken care of. We're thinking about their health and safety, too."


Mower County Attorney Kristen Nelsen told the board that the planning commission's decision to deny the permit failed to take into consideration the added conditions Vonco promises to follow.


"The board needs to consider those conditions, to see if they allay their concerns and the reasons for a potential denial," Nelsen said.