Freeborn County case highlights risks of burning tires, garbage

Contact: Cathy Rofshus, 507-206-2608

Rochester, Minn.--Burning tires is a bad idea for human and environmental health. Using hazardous waste to start tires on fire is an even worse idea.

Charles D. Borneman, corporate officer for Albert Lea Trailer Inc. in Freeborn County, has paid a $20,000 penalty and agreed to comply with state rules that prevent noxious smoke from burning materials such as rubber.

Freeborn County requested that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency investigate suspected violations of solid and hazardous waste after five fire departments responded to three fires in March 2012 on properties owned by Borneman or his revocable trust. 

The MPCA’s inspection found waste materials on Borneman property northeast of Albert Lea, including seven garbage piles (one measuring 45 by 45 feet), waste measuring 140 by 70 feet buried in a wetland, 10 tractor tires, and a pile of ash measuring five cubic yards (enough to nearly fill a small dumpster).

The MPCA inspection also found that Albert Lea Trailer generates parts washer solvent, used oil, and floor dry for recovering used oil and spilled solvents – all considered hazardous waste and requiring certain disposal methods. The inspector determined that parts washer solvent had been used as an accelerant to start the fires on the Borneman properties.

Burning and burying garbage, with few exceptions, is against the law in Minnesota. Burning garbage releases pollutants into the air, while remaining ashes contain concentrated amounts of toxins that can blow away or seep into the soil or groundwater.

Dioxin, a human carcinogen, is among the more serious environmental and health risks posed by garbage burning. Dioxin is also an endocrine disrupter and can cause reproductive, developmental, and immunological problems in humans and animals. Research by the federal Environmental Protection Agency shows that burn barrels are the top source of dioxin in the United States.

Borneman has also agreed to comply with state rules that require storage and disposal of waste at facilities with appropriate permits; that prohibit open burning of materials that create excessive or noxious smoke such as those treated with chemicals; that prohibit disposal of tires in land; that prohibit waste disposal with the potential to pollute surface or groundwater; and that require management of hazardous waste.

In addition, Borneman has agreed to stop disposing of waste on his properties, complete management plans for hazardous waste, recycle used oil if possible and store used oil according to state rules, dispose of ash and impacted soil from the tire fires at an appropriate facility, and dispose of waste tires at an appropriate facility.

The penalty and conditions are part of an agreement between Albert Lea Trailer, Charles D. Borneman revocable trust, Charles D. Borneman, and the MPCA. This type of agreement is one of the tools the agency uses to achieve compliance with environmental laws. When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violation affected the environment, whether it was a first-time or repeat violation, and how promptly the violation was reported to appropriate authorities. The agency also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.

For more information about managing waste, see the Living Green section of the MPCA website at