By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN As a pollution control specialist in the Solid Waste Unit of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), Paul Kimman’s job isn’t an easy one. But it’s one he does enjoy “most days.”
Kimman has worked for the MPCA in solid and hazardous waste compliance and enforcement, as well as following up on complaints related to hazardous waste and burning violations, for four years.
Most MPCA regions have a separate solid waste and hazardous waste inspector, but Kimman does both.
“State-wide I cover the southwest region, which is 18 counties, and this (Winsted in McLeod County) is basically as far east as the southwest region goes. Aside from Swift and Meeker counties, this (Winsted) is about as far north, too.”
MPCA has about 25 other programs, according to Kimman, and each program has a pollution control specialist assigned to an area.
“Like I do solid waste and hazardous waste, there is an air quality inspector,” Kimman said, “and a feedlot inspector, a municipal wastewater inspector, who would check city wastewater treatment plants, and industrial wastewater; and a lot of watershed programs.”
Wright and Carver counties are part of the metro counties and the MPCA office for them is in St. Paul.
Carver County is one of the seven metro counties that does its own hazardous waste inspections on a more frequent basis than the counties outstate, according to Kimman.
Accompanying Kimman on a recent visit to Winsted was Forrest Peterson, information officer for the MPCA Southwest Region, who explained the overall structure of the agencies and how they work.
“Basically, what the agencies and departments do are enacted in statute. The citizens of Minnesota, through the legislature, say, ‘We need this, and we need that,’ so the laws are passed. Then, the agencies are given the responsibility of creating rules to implement the laws.
“It takes a lot of work to get down to the details of, ‘how do you make this work?’ There is a lot of public involvement. For example, when we create rules to implement the laws the citizens have enacted, we have a long process of meetings and input from industry and citizens that help to create the rules. Then, a lot of effort in providing education and training to enact these things.”
When Kimman comes to Winsted, it’s usually unannounced, on a schedule he sets up himself to inspect hazardous waste generators.
Any hazardous waste generator, no matter the size, needs to have a hazardous waste identification number, which is specific to the site, and licensed based on the amount of hazardous waste generated at that site.
The identification number and license is put into the MPCA database and that is how Kimman sets up his inspections.
“We try to inspect small and large quantity generators on a five-year inspection cycle, and very small quantity generators are done as time allows, or on a complaint basis,” Kimman said.
Permitted landfills and transfer stations and permanent solid waste composting facilities are inspected one-to-three times a year.
“As a general rule, a business generating a waste, and I am not talking about things like office paper, but industrial waste, needs to evaluate to determine if it’s hazardous,” Kimman said. “That is a rule in the state of Minnesota. A business that generates waste needs to evaluate it within 60 days to determine if it’s hazardous.”
“The simplest is to go to our website,” Kimman said. “We have a fact sheet that talks about evaluating hazardous waste and it talks about what is hazardous and why something is hazardous.”
Following up on hazardous waste and burning complaints will bring Kimman to Winsted, Lester Prairie, and other towns within his region.
If someone is in violation of handling or disposing of hazardous waste, a hefty fine can result.
For a household burning complaint, Kimman said his first action would be to talk with the property owner. If the burning site is in plain view, he will look to see what they are burning. If it’s household garbage, there is a violation letter which requires the property owners to remove the burn barrel and come up with a plan on how to properly manage their solid waste. Once they complete the corrective actions, the case is closed.
If Kimman does an inspection and the violation is a repeat or more serious, the information is taken to an enforcement forum which includes Kimman’s supervisor, compliance coordinator (who is someone who deals with hazardous waste inspectors statewide), other inspectors, and a representative from the attorney general’s office.
The goal of the meeting is to make sure all cases are treated equally statewide.
At the forum, the facts are presented, the response from the business in violation is reviewed, and the penalty is determined by the potential for harm and deviation from compliance of the rules.
“There is a scale where we come up with a penalty amount based on those facts,” Kimman said.
Each quarter, an MPCA enforcement summary lists businesses and individuals who were in violation of the MPCA rules and regulations.
For the first quarter of 2011, statewide, the MPCA enforcement summary reported a total of more than $420,000 in penalty fees assessed.
The smallest fine listed was $550 and the largest was $75,000.
In the current biennium, all penalty funds go to the state’s environmental fund. The environmental fund is used to operate agency programs. In the new budget bill that is being proposed, penalty money would be split between the environmental fund and general fund.
For questions regarding waste disposal, Kimman and Peterson suggested contacting local counties. For McLeod County, contact environmental services at (320) 864-1259, Carver County contact environmental services at (952) 361-1800, and in Wright County contact general planning and zoning at (763) 682-7338.
For more information on the MPCA, or to find the quarterly MPCA report of violations and fines, follow the link to the MPCA website at www.herald-journal.com.