Hubbard County Anticipates ‘Chemical Forever’ Testing – Park Rapids Enterprise

Hubbard County Solid Waste Administrator Josh Holte advised county commissioners on March 15 that trash volumes had “significantly increased” in 2021 across the region.

“A lot of that was due to the pipeline project. Clearwater County has seen huge increases,” he said.

Incinerable Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) from Hubbard County is transported to the Polk County Incinerator. Non-combustible DMS (bypass) is routed to the Polk County Landfill.

“The good news is that both the incinerator and the landfill ended the year in the dark. I think it’s the first time in a few years,” Holte said. “It was due to the wild swings in the market, where they shot up last year. Now they’ve calmed down a bit, but they’re still higher than before. With the current problems, they’ll probably continue to swing from top to bottom. “

Other issues counties will face are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs), a forever chemical that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) tracks.

According to the MPCA, PFAs are “a large group of nearly 5,000 different synthetic chemicals that are resistant to heat, water, and oil. The United States Environmental Protection Agency classifies PFAs as emerging contaminants in the national landscape.Invented in the 1930s, PFAs are still commonly used for their water and grease resistant properties in many industrial applications and consumer products, such as carpeting, rainwear, upholstery, food paper wrappers, kitchen utensils, personal care products, fire-fighting foams and metal plating.”

Holte said counties will likely need to conduct voluntary testing at solid waste facilities, like the incinerator and landfills.

“Volunteering will likely move to mandatory testing so it can continue to operate with permits,” he said.

Holte predicted that PFA testing at the demolition facility would cost between $20,000 and $50,000 per year.

“It will impact counties across the state,” he said.

He said Polk County received a grant to put robots on the incinerator’s sorting line because they were having trouble retaining staff.

In related matters, the Board proceeded as follows:

  • Approval of a five-year contract with Howard’s Paving, Inc. of Menahga for the recycling of shingles. Holte explained that the county collects clean shingles from the South Transfer Station. “We have about 8,500 to 9,000 yards of shingles in place,” he said. After scouting for a contractor, Holte said Howard’s Paving approached Hubbard and Becker counties to provide the service. The shingles will be collected from solid waste facilities at no charge to the counties, then transported, crushed and incorporated into the asphalt mix.

Holte mentioned that the pile of crushed concrete at the South Transfer Station is “monstrous” at 12,000 to 15,000 yards.

  • Supported a resolution to seek a Minnesota GreenCorps member in 2022. Holte mentioned the county had hosted two members in the past. “I think every year we apply our chances of success, but I still think it’s worth applying,” he said.
  • Approved low bid of $619,144 from Wm. D. Scepaniak, Inc. of Holdingford, Minn. for aggregate paving in the southern half of the county.
  • Approval of $127,534 quote from RDO Truck Center of Fargo, ND for two Mack tandem truck chassis, in combination with $127,738 quote from Bert’s Truck Equipment of Moorhead for tandem truck snowplow equipment. Due to supply issues, County Public Works Director Jed Nordin recommended purchasing new trucks ahead of schedule. “If we were to order a truck now, we wouldn’t expect delivery until January 2023,” he said. Snow plow equipment has a waiting period of 48 to 54 weeks. The county does not pay until delivery.
  • Approved low cost estimate of $13,525 from M&R Sign Co., Inc. of Fergus Falls for traffic sign supplies.
  • Approved the low quote of $3,099 from Up North Power & Sports for a trailer. It will be used to place temporary road closure signs.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says PFAs have been used for decades in consumer products and are difficult to avoid completely, but there are steps that can be taken to reduce exposure.

Cooking tools

  • Do not use non-stick cookware.
  • Cook with cast iron, stainless steel, ceramic, stoneware and glass.
  • Do not scratch or rub nonstick cookware, overheat it, or put it in the dishwasher.

Food packaging

  • Cut down on fast food and takeout. PFAs are used in cardboard containers and paper packaging.
  • Do not reheat food in greaseproof packaging.
  • Make popcorn on the stove or with popcorn instead of microwave popcorn in PFA treated bags.

Personal care products

  • Choose products without “PTFE” or “fluoro” ingredients.
  • PFAS has been found in products ranging from eyeliner to dental floss.
  • Search the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database to find information about the products you use.

Stain-resistant and waterproof fabrics

  • Avoid buying items labeled “stain-resistant”, “water-resistant” or “waterproof”, such as clothing, shoes and furniture.
  • Rugs and carpets are a major source of exposure for infants and toddlers.

The water

  • Visit the Minnesota Department of Health website to learn more about PFAS and drinking water.
  • People and pets should avoid contact with moss on lakes and streams. Wash skin that has come into contact with foam containing PFA with soap and water.

Be heard

  • Contact your legislator about the importance of regulating PFAS. The bipartisan Congressional PFAS Task Force was formed in 2019. Members of the Minnesota task force are Congressman Dean Phillips and Congresswoman Betty McCollum.