ST. PAUL (AP) -- The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will begin monitoring piles of road salt to ensure that toxic contaminants are not seeping into the Mississippi River.
The agency sent out letters on Monday to owners and operators of four salt piles -- one in St. Paul and three in Winona -- stating that it intends to install monitoring devices at the sites.
The letters follow an analysis of water-quality near the sites that found high levels of salt and free cyanide, a toxic byproduct of an anti-caking agent applied to the piles, said Keith Cherryholmes, senior engineering specialist for the agency's Metro District.
The companies notified on Monday were: Dakota Bulk Terminal of South St. Paul, Modern Transport of Goodview, Winona Port Authority and Winona River & Rail.
The letters are the second round of warnings for the salt-pile violators. The Minneapolis Community Development Agency was also notified in the first round, but it has since agreed to compliance measures.
The environmental agency only recently began monitoring salt piles, Cherryholmes said.
Each year about 320,000 tons of salt are dumped onto Minnesota roads. The Minnesota Department of Transportation stores most of that and appears to be doing a good job, Cherryholmes said.
Owners of the four sites in question disputed the validity of the tests, noting that they were performed for the agency by Winona-based environmental consultant Mississippi River Revival.
Marie Krien-Schmidt, environmental director at the South St. Paul site owned by Kinder Morgan Bulk Terminals and operated by Dakota Bulk Terminal, said her company hired an independent consultant to conduct the same tests. She said they couldn't duplicate the agency's findings.
Cherryholmes responded that data can significantly change if there's been rain.
Krien-Schmidt also said her company complies with accepted best-management practices, which include covering the salt with tarps and storing it on special pads.
Chris Hood, Winona Port Authority special counsel, said his company tried to comply with the original letter, but that the environmental agency didn't provide enough information. He said the agency is responsible for any delay in compliance.
At Winona River & Rail, General Manager Jeff Kuhn said his 11,000-ton salt pile drains into his yard, not the river. He pointed out that the pile is 30 feet from the shore.
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