After illegally burning waste materials when demolishing buildings on an abandoned farm to make way for more tillable acres, a Sibley County producer ended up paying in many ways. Under state enforcement action, he paid a $14,500 fine, wrote a letter to The Land advising others to not burn farm structures and took the steps needed to clean up the site.
Buildings can contain asbestos-containing materials, vinyl siding, painted wood — materials that are hazardous if burned. Burning solid waste is illegal in most cases in order to protect human health and the environment from pollution of air, water and land. It is illegal to burn rubber, plastics or other materials that produce excessive or noxious smoke. It’s also illegal to burn garbage, hazardous waste, demolition debris and motor vehicles.
What you should know
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency offers these tips to keep in compliance with state rules on solid waste:
- Don’t burn solid waste.
- Don’t burn any buildings.
- Don’t demolish buildings until you have followed the proper procedures.
- Don’t bury anything unless you have a permit.
While rural Minnesotans have long burned garbage, doing so is more dangerous these days. Today’s garbage includes packaging materials that release carcinogens and other toxins when burned. Several pollutants persist in the environment and accumulate in the food chain. Human exposure happens through inhaling polluted air and eating contaminated food.
Burn permits, available from the Department of Natural Resources, local fire warden, or other authority, cover only vegetative debris and clean wood from residential use.
When demolishing buildings:
- You must remove certain materials, such as devices containing mercury, from a structure before demolition.
- You will likely need a licensed inspection for asbestos, a potentially harmful substance, before demolition.
- Any waste generated, such as concrete and wood, must go to a specially permitted facility for disposal. Permitted facilities are engineered and operated to prevent the waste from contaminating groundwater, and causing odors and litter.
As far as burying waste materials, Minnesota law does allow a farm exemption for certain materials in certain areas. However, it’s best to seek local and state permits before burying anything on your property because the farm exemption does not cover many materials and circumstances. For example, it does not allow burial of appliances. Also, it does not apply to demolition debris.