Leech Lake garbage disposal issues to be discussed March 16

BEMIDJI, Minn. — Brandy Toft, the air quality specialist with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, will explain a project that addresses burn barrels, open burning and open dumps on the Leech Lake Reservation during a 3 p.m. Monday, March 16, presentation at the Bemidji State University Center for Research and Innovation.

Part of the Bemidji Area Natural Resources Continuing Education Consortium series, the 60-minute session will be held at the Center for Research and Innovation, located at 3801 Bemidji Avenue North, and is open to the public at no charge.

Due to their harmful effects on people and the environment, burn barrels are illegal on the Leech Lake Reservation and across Minnesota. Backyard burning is the leading source of dioxin emissions, which is second only to toxicity to radioactive waste. Open burning causes 40 percent of wildfires in Minnesota every year and pollutes air, water and soil.

“It’s not our grandparent’s trash,” Toft said of the changing composition of household waste. “So much of our trash has recycled products and plastics integrated into them that when burned, give off harmful chemicals. Within 20 minutes of burning trash, 15 feet around that burn is considered contaminated soil. Would you want children playing there?”

Today’s household garbage includes more than wood, plain paper and glass. Floating on the waste stream are a mixture of synthetic, treated and plastic products that cause problems. Plastics are a major source of chlorine and hydrochloric acids, while Styrofoam products release 57 chemical byproducts. Bleached white paper releases halogenated hydrocarbons, inks and dyes that result in toxics when burned at low levels; municipal incinerators burn garbage at a higher temperature, allowing for the reduction in the formation and emission of air pollutants.

Leech Lake initiated an air quality program to monitor for pollutants like dioxin, compile meteorological data and explore wind feasibility for alternative energy. It is involved in a number of partnerships with communities, schools and organizations to promote air awareness.

Toft has worked with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe for eight years. She graduated from Bemidji State University with degrees in biology and geology.

The presentation is part of an on-going series of Bemidji Area Natural Resources Continuing Education Consortium programs, typically held on the third Monday of each month. While covering topics of general interest, the sessions are designed for professionals working in the natural resource area and may be technical in nature. Groups participating in organizing the consortium include the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Chippewa National Forest, Leech Lake Division of Resource Management, Ainsworth, and the Red Lake Reservation.

For more information, or to be added to the mailing list for the series, contact the Bemidji State University Center for Research and Innovation at (218) 755-4900; toll free, (888) 738-3224; e-mail, cri@bemidjistate.edu; or at http://www.cri-bsu.org.

March 16
– 3 p.m. – Bemidji State University Center for Research and Innovation hosts Bemidji Area Natural Resources Continuing Education Consortium presentation on garbage burning at the Leech Lake Reservation. Presenter: Brandy Toft, air quality specialist, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. Location: Center for Research and Innovation; 3801 Bemidji Ave. N.; Bemidji, Minn. Cost: free. For information: (218) 755-4900; (888) 738-3224; http://www.cri-bsu.org.