Wind-blown industrial waste contaminates local stream

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Industrial waste material lines the stream bank on the north side of 270th Street Friday morning as crews work to clean up the area. (Special to The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — Industrial waste from a local livestock truck wash that had been spread across a farm field on Wednesday ended up in a road ditch, culvert and stream as a result of Thursday’s high winds, resulting in a potential pollution violation.

The waste material, consisting primarily of sawdust with smaller amounts of manure and whatever chemicals possibly absorbed during the truck washing process, appeared like brown-colored snow banks along the stream, with a significant amount redistributed in the road ditch. At the culvert, the waste material covered the water, with white foam forming in some areas of the stream.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency received at least two reports late Thursday from landowners with environmental concerns. The impacted stream, between Roberts and Sundberg avenues on 270th Street, flows into a slough on Duck Club property, which then feeds into Lake Ocheda.

Nobles County Environmental Services and the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District were both notified, and representatives from those agencies were at the site Friday morning. By then, work was already underway to remove the industrial waste from the ditch.

The material came from the Tru Shine Truck Wash, which is owned by Mark Thier. Nienkerk Construction was called in to help with the cleanup.


Dan Livdahl, Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District Administrator, said the material, while mostly sawdust, is a concern because of the unknown residues attached to the solids.

“Sawdust is used to treat nutrient-laden water,” Livdahl said, noting that he saw foaming in the water Friday morning. That would indicate there was probably some type of soap residue present in the waste.

“My biggest concern right now is the stuff is loose and it’s sitting northwest of the ditch,” Livdahl said late Friday morning. Returning the material to the farm field without incorporating it could result in it blowing back into the ditch and stream if the high winds return.

Because the material is classified as industrial waste rather than manure, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is responsible for permitting and following up on violations. Nobles County does not have jurisdiction, noted Kathy Henderschiedt, planning and zoning administrator within the county’s environmental services office.

Forrest Peterson, public information officer with the MPCA’s Southwest Region office in Marshall, said late Friday the incident is being investigated.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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