Andy Rathbun, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Published March 05 2014
MPCA proposes new rules on backyard compost sitesST. PAUL – New state regulations could be coming to your compost heap.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is proposing new rules on backyard compost sites, and a composting advocacy group is taking issue with some of the changes.
“They haven’t proven that there are any serious problems as a result of backyard composting,” said Ginny Black, chair of the Minnesota Composting Council. “What’s the problem here? Why are they doing this?”
The agency says it considers the rule change reasonable, stating that the proposal allows businesses, homes, schools, urban farms and community gardens with small compost sites that do not meet the definition of a backyard compost site to be exempt from mixed municipal solid waste requirements.
Under the proposed rule changes, which are open for comment until 4:30 p.m. Friday, household compost sites once considered “backyard compost sites” would be reclassified as “small compost sites” and see new regulations at the state level.
Backyard composting sites, which are currently exempt from state regulations, would need to adhere to state rules on water and air quality and soil protection, for instance. They also could not be located in floodplains, wetlands, shoreland or wild and scenic river land use districts.
As defined as small compost sites, they could not be larger than 80 cubic yards and would need to be managed to “minimize odor and the creation of nuisances and public health risks.” The proposed rules also list a number of items that would and would not be acceptable for composting.
Black said that while backyard compost sites often already see regulations at the municipal level, the new state rules could discourage some people from composting. That, her group said in a letter to the agency, would go against the state’s “stated goal of encouraging composting in Minnesota.”
Black added that her group estimates between 120,000 and 150,000 people in the state have backyard compost sites and the MPCA lacks the manpower to enforce the proposed rules.
“The agency cannot possibly regulate this stuff,” she said. “I don’t think we want them walking into people’s backyards and doing this.”
Yolanda Letnes, rule coordinator for the MPCA, said the agency could not comment on how it would enforce the rules, stating in an email that the MPCA wanted to “preserve the public notice process for all parties” and could only respond to clarification questions about the rules and an accompanying document.
The agency does state, however, that small compost sites should require little oversight and supervision by the agency, and requiring them to obtain permits would be unreasonable and prohibitively expensive.
Letnes noted that the rules have not been finalized and changes could be made.
Should the agency get 25 or more comments requesting a hearing on the changes, an administrative law judge will hold a public hearing March 24, opening the rules back up for a public commenting process.
The rules could be finalized in late summer or late fall of this year.
“(People) do have an opportunity to comment between now and the end of the week, and those comments are something that we look at and take into consideration,” said Tim Farnan, organics and recycling specialist for the MPCA.
Comments can be submitted in writing to Yolanda Letnes, MPCA – RMAD, 520 Lafayette Road North, St. Paul, MN 55155, or emailed to email@example.com. The deadline is 4:30 p.m. Friday.
For more information on the proposed rule changes, go to http://bit.ly/1cCjiQ8 and click on the links listed under Jan. 6.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.