Updates on the Library, Waste Digester, Waste to Energy & Other Environmental Initiatives, & Tobacco


Rochester and Area Libraries

$1,386,022 is appropriated from the Olmsted County Budget to support area libraries:

  • Rochester Library Operations   $1,157,200
  • Rochester Library Capital           $57,909
  • Chatfield      $33,120
  • Pine Island    $58,600
  • St. Charles   -$19,596
  • Stewartville -$59,597

Anaerobic Solid Waste Digester

Olmsted County has asked to sign a letter of support for an anaerobic Solid Waste Digester that is proposed to be built in Wilson Township, Winona County.  An anaerobic digester is a way to convert organic waste such as manure and food garbage by processing it in an enclosed vessel.  The process produces “biogas” (methane) which can be pumped into the natural gas pipelines.  The digestate that is left over from the process is a source of fertilizer that can be used on fields.  (Methane is a greenhouse gas that is ten times worse than carbon dioxide).  Nature Energy is the business that proposes the facility.  It has several successful operations in Europe. I you want to learn more go to: kim@aginspirations.com

More Solar?

Olmsted County is investigating adding a solar field on one of the closed landfill cells at the Kalmar Landfill site.

Olmsted is a leader in Environmental Initiatives

Olmsted County is a leader in groundwater and environmental protection.  I have supported all of the following initiatives to ensure that that our water, air, and environment are protected now and into the future:

  Olmsted Waste-to-Energy Facility (OWEF)

  • This facility keeps material from going to a landfill.  Because of the geology of the area, Olmsted does not put solid waste (garbage) into a landfill because of the risk of polluting the groundwater.  In addition, this facility generates steam and electricity which is used to heat and power county facilities which is also a cost saving to taxpayers.  Olmsted and Dodge Counties use this facility to process solid waste.

  Materials Recovery Facility.

  • This is a proposed facility that I have supported.  The county has requested about $16.5 million in bonding from the Legislature to build this facility at a cost of about $32million.  If this facility is funded it will reduce the amount of material going into the Waste-to-Energy Facility by sorting the waste before it goes into the facility.  This will extend the life of the facility and increase the amount of recyclable products that the county can sell.

  Southeast Recycler Exchange

  • This is a regional joint powers board (I represent Olmsted on this Board) that coordinates the recycling efforts among the SE MN counties to help keep recyclables out of the waste stream.

  Hazardous Waste Disposal

  • These efforts are coordinated among four SE Minnesota counties to help keep hazardous materials from entering the environment.  (Residents of Olmsted can bring hazardous materials (paint, solvents, pesticides, insecticides, household cleaners, batteries, etc., more information is available on the county’s website) to this facility for free.

  One Watershed One Plan

  • Olmsted is a part of three plans: Zumbro, Whitewater, and Root watersheds.  Olmsted participates in these plans to protect surface and groundwater.  The counties in the watershed pool their resources to improve watershed management to protect our rivers, streams and surface water and to prevent pollutants from entering our groundwater.

  Soil Health and Reduction of Nitrates in Groundwater

  • This is a new $3million initiative which I support (it is funded by the American Recovery Program Aid).  The program is managed by our Soil and Water Conservation division.  It provides incentives to farmers to plant cover crops, small grains, and encourage haying and grazing.  The primary goal of the program is to reduce nitrates in groundwater with the added benefit of erosion control, increased carbon sequestration, and economic diversity for farmers and communities. (Olmsted is now in phase two of this program.  If it proves successful, I will support additional money (which has been placed in reserve) to expand the program to more farmers.

  SE Minnesota Regional Water Lab

  • This regional lab serves private well owners, municipalities, well drillers, water planners and others for water testing and to provide data to measure the quality of ground water in the county.


County Commissioners and the Environment

Here is information on the Built and Natural Environment.  County Commissioners provide direction for the county to manage growth and our natural resources.  This video helps to become aware of the county’s role in managing our environment:  https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/FMfcgzGslkdxgbWhrcxsLmgfgFhKpBKp?projector=1


Flavored Tobacco Products and Youth

The Public Health Services Advisory Committee has been studying the increase of tobacco and nicotine use among the youth.  The use of tobacco and nicotine is a known cause of cancer.

Here are some statistics on flavored tobacco and its connection to youth:

  • 97% of youth who vape use flavored products
  • 81% of youth who ever tried tobacco chose flavored tobacco as their first tobacco product
  • 331 localities (nationally) have some type of restriction on flavored tobacco products
  • 106 localities (nationally) have comprehensive bans on menthol tobacco products
  • 2.93 Million middle and high school students in the U.S. used flavored tobacco products in 2020.
  • Sales restrictions on all flavored tobacco products, including all types of menthol products, are gaining momentum.


Tobacco Sales to Youth Ordinance and Public Hearing

Olmsted County has an ordinance prohibiting the sale of tobacco to Youth (under 21).  Public Health works with retailers and can provide educational materials to the retailer on the ordinance.  The current ordinance will have to be amended to be in compliance with State law.  The ordinance must include natural or synthetic nicotine and non-nicotine e-liquids delivered by electronic devices (vaping).

Retailer penalties for sales to underage must meet the following minimums:

  • $300 for the first violation
  • $600 for a 2nd violation with 36 months of the first violation
  • $1,000 for the 3rd or subsequent violation within 36 months.

A fourth violation could result in revocation of the retailer’s license.

The ordinance change will require a public hearing.  The Board will require more information before writing the amended ordinance.  The date for a public hearing has not been set.

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