Farm Horizons, April 2013

New rules regulate process for removing old farm buildings

By Ivan Raconteur

A bright red barn set against a background of green fields and bright blue skies can be a picturesque image of farming.

As time passes and usage changes, however, property owners in agricultural areas may find themselves wondering how to dispose of old, unwanted barns or sheds.

Rules have changed, and it pays to find out what the local regulations are before attempting to remove old buildings. Rules do vary from county to county.

Paul Kimman, pollution control specialist with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), said the first step people should take when considering removal of a farm building is an asbestos survey.

Kimman serves the southwest region of Minnesota, which includes McLeod and Meeker counties, among others.

Farm buildings are covered under the federal National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP). Owners are required to get an asbestos survey done by a licensed inspector, and, if necessary, an asbestos abatement by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor. They must also complete a 10-day notice form. The “notice to perform a demolition” form is available on the MPCA website,

Once the asbestos survey has been completed, the next steps depend on what the landowner plans to do with the material.

If the material will be hauled to a permitted landfill, the process is relatively simple.

If the landowner wants to bury the material on-site (where allowed), there are more requirements.

Kimman said clean concrete from a farm site can, in some areas, be buried on land used for farming on that farm. This must be recorded on the property deed.

If a landowner wants to bury the entire structure, he must follow the permit by rule (PBR) process, which allows a limited volume of demolition debris (15,000 cubic yards) to be disposed of over a period of up to one year.

PBR sites:

• cannot be on a site with karst features (karst is a landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks including limestone, dolomite, and gypsum. It is characterized by sinkholes, caves, and underground drainage systems).

• cannot be located within a wetland or floodplain.

• cannot be within 300 feet of a stream or river, or within 1,000 feet of a lake or pond.

• must be at least 50 feet from the property boundary line.

• must be at least 50 feet from a water supply well and at least 100 feet from a sensitive water supply well.

• must have a bottom that is at least 5 feet above the seasonal high groundwater table.

• cannot be adjacent to another demolition debris disposal PBR.

In order to operate a PBR, the following requirements must be met:

• The facility must be operated by a Class II or Class III certified landfill operator.

• Only demolition debris may be accepted for disposal. Asbestos or household waste may not be accepted in any form.

• Solid waste taxes must be paid.

• After one year, or after 15,000 cubic yards of material has been placed at the site, the facility must be closed by covering the waste with a minimum of 2 feet of cover. The cover must be sloped between 2 and 20 percent, and the cover must be vegetated to prevent erosion.

• A description of the types and quantities of waste buried must be recorded on, or as an attachment to, the property deed.

• The landowner must inspect the site annually for 20 years, and provide landfill maintenance as required.

The prohibited materials that must be removed from buildings before they are demolished are covered by state law. The Minnesota statute covering farm disposal of solid waste is 17.135.

Before demolishing an existing farm structure, the following prohibited items must be removed from the structure and properly disposed of or recycled:

• all plastics;

• wiring;

• appliances and electronics;

• tires;

• mattresses;

• all household batteries;

• lead acid batteries;

• motor oil and filters;

• all hazardous wastes;

• agricultural pesticides and their empty containers.

In some areas, and under certain circumstances, demolition debris from the removal of farm buildings can be buried on land used for farming. This is known as the farm exemption.

“Demolition debris” is the kind of waste generated when a building is demolished. As defined in state law, it includes: concrete, brick, bituminous concrete, untreated wood, masonry, glass, trees, rock and plastic building parts. Demolition debris does not include garbage called “household waste” or “municipal solid waste” or asbestos waste.

Minnesota statute 17.135 states, “Within 90 days after completion of the burial, an owner of land used for farming who buries material under the authority of paragraph (a), clause (2), shall record, with the county recorder or registrar of titles of the county in which the land is located, an affidavit containing a legal description of the property and a map drawn from available information showing the boundary of the property and the location of concrete or reinforcing bar buried on the property.”

Assistant McLeod County Zoning Administrator Mark Telecky said the rules governing removal of farm buildings are administered by the MPCA.

McLeod County posts downloadable files with information about farm building removal on its website, Click on the “environmental services” tab on the left side of the page, and then click on the “farm disposal” tab.

In Wright County, the farm exemption does not apply, and no on-site burial is allowed.

Bill Stephens, Wright County environmental health officer/solid waste officer, said the county board adopted a resolution in the early 1990s stating there are adequate solid waste disposal sites available in the county, and the farm exemption does not apply.

Stephens said there may be cases where a landowner can obtain a burning permit from a local fire warden or arrange with a local fire department to conduct a practice burn to reduce the amount of material that needs to be removed from the site. However, all hazardous materials, such as asbestos, items containing mercury, items containing polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) or fluorescent light bulbs must first be removed and taken to an approved facility. All solid waste materials must be taken to a permitted solid waste facility.

Stephens said contractors who perform this type of work are generally aware of the requirements, and of rules at individual landfills.

Permits are not required to demolish farm buildings in Wright County, Stephens said, but it is generally a misdemeanor if people do not dispose of materials properly.

“Our goal is to help people get through he process as easily as possible,” Stephens said.

Brad Hanzel, solid waste, recycling, and open burning contact for Carver County environmental services, said last year, the county began allowing burial of concrete and rebar on active farm sites. Prior to that, the county’s ordinance was more restrictive than state law, and did not allow any burial of demolition debris.

Property owners are required to apply for a demolition permit.

Hanzel said the first step for landowners in Carver County should be to contact land management for direction.

“Most people want to do the right thing,” Hanzel said, adding that the land management office can help people take the right steps for their situation.

A burning question

The MPCA often receives inquiries about burning buildings or waste from demolished buildings as a method of disposal. Burning of a structure is only allowed in a legitimate fire training burn. In order to qualify for this type of burn, landowners must follow the requirements described in the fact sheet available at

According to the MPCA fact sheet on solid waste disposal, “burning waste to avoid disposal costs can be a costly choice.”

If caught, property owners who illegally burn structures will be required to dispose of the unburned waste and ash at a solid waste facility that is lined, and which will likely cost more. Violators may also be required to pay a fine.

Sources of information:

Rules vary from county to county, so landowners should check local rules before beginning demolition. Following are some contacts for more information:

• McLeod and Meeker counties: Paul Kimman, MPCA pollution control specialist at the Marshall MPCA office, (507) 476-4270.

• The MPCA contacts for residents of Carver and Wright counties are: Sean O’Conner (651) 757-2620 or Scott Parr (651) 757-2638.

• Wright County: Bill Stephens, Wright County environmental health officer/solid waste officer, (763) 682-7338.

• McLeod County: Mark Telecky, McLeod County assistant zoning administrator, (320) 864-1213. McLeod County posts downloadable files with information about farm building removal on its website, Click on the “environmental services” tab on the left side of the page, and then click on the “farm disposal” tab.

• Carver County: land management department, (952) 361-1820.

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