Posted at: 09/17/2012 5:44 PM
Updated at: 09/17/2012 6:23 PM
By: Ellery McCardle
Old Railroad Ties Pose Drinking Water Contamination Risk
(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Thousands of old railroad ties stacked up in a Freeborn County neighborhood are a concern to the people living in the area.
They're worried about hazardous waste seeping into their drinking water.
The wooden ties that once stretched from Albert Lea to New Richland now sit in Bancroft Township not far from people's homes.
Considered hazardous waste, county officials say they need to be removed from the area, and taken to a proper waste facility.
This all began in mid-August, people living in the area saw semis coming in and out of a driveway just off the intersection of Bluegrass Road and County Road 101. They say seeing semis in that area is unusual. So their curiosity quickly turned into concern.
Behind the line of trees sit thousands of railroad ties.
"What what we want is the ties out of there," said Alan Christensen, supervisor of the Bancroft Township board.
"My concern is you're damaging the environment," said Ben Cerney, who lives near the site.
The wooden ties were treated with the chemical creosote to prevent them from rotting.
"If you breathe it in or get it into the water supply it can be a carcinogen. if there's a major fire, smoke can be toxic," said Wayne Sorensen, planning and zoning administrator for Freeborn County.
He says the stacks cannot stay put.
"If they're disposed of, they have to be disposed of in a solid waste landfill. They can't go to a demolition landfill, they can't be burned or chipped," said Sorensen.
Also, they sit near a shoreland district which feeds into Fountain Lake. So for neighbors like Ben Cerney, they fear drinking water will be contaminated.
"Our well is 170 feet. Our water table is 70 feet so it wouldn't take a lot to get into the aquifer," said Cerney.
What's also upsetting to people is the fact that a permit was not obtained before the ties were left here.
"When somebody asks for a permit after the fact, that's not the way to do business," said Christensen.
A permit may be on the way for Rochester Asphalt, whose since requested one. If its passed by the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners, all ties must be removed in 30 days.
But why were they put here?
The landowner Bradford Wedge didn't want to go on camera but tells us he rented out the space to Rochester Asphalt as a temporary holding place and didn't know he needed a permit. He said, "It was not my intent to cause problems....I'd like them off as soon as possible but I don't see it as a big problem."
When we called Rochester Ashpalt, we got a different story. President Royal Johnson says his company didn't dump the ties. Instead they were asked to bundle them.
"We were just trying to help out that company...we were just trying to be the nice guys in it," said Johnson.
That company Johnson is referring to is Railroad Materials Salvage in Richmond, Missouri.
We called them but no answer back.
In the meantime concerned residents like Ben Cerney will wait for the day when the ties will be out of the neighborhood.
"it'd be better if they were moved," said Cerney.
"The county does have a lot of concerns of the safety of this problem and we're working to get it resolved as soon as possible," said Sorensen.
The landowner could face criminal or civil action.
Tuesday morning Freeborn County commissioners will consider the permit.
Stay with ABC 6 NEWS well have an update on this investigation after the meeting.