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Published June 21, 2012, 07:18 PM

After legal threats, Mayville co-op will filter dust

Demands by town residents have been heard after the downtown Mayport Co-op Elevator voted to install air-filtering equipment ahead of a proposed expansion project. The board voted Tuesday morning to install the filter equipment, and hopes to have the system running by the end of the year, said President Richard Moen.

By: TJ Jerke, Grand Forks Herald

MAYVILLE, N.D. — Demands by town residents have been heard after the downtown Mayport Co-op Elevator voted to install air-filtering equipment ahead of a proposed expansion project.

Since 2006, the last time the elevator added new silos, town residents have complained about a large amount of dust and noise it emits and the respiratory problems they’ve suffered since.

But the issue came to a head recently after residents organized and hired attorneys, who sent a letter to the co-op’s board of directors threatening legal action if the co-op didn’t do something or if the city’s planning and zoning commission allowed the co-op to add two more grain silos.

The board voted Tuesday morning to install the filter equipment, and hopes to have the system running by the end of the year, said President Richard Moen.

“It seemed like a logical thing to do,” Moen said. “We could have done it cheaper in one project but it is cheaper to hire construction labor than it is to hire lawyers.”

Mayor Richard Moen said Wednesday the letter didn’t do anything but require the city to obey its own ordinances. “The way I see it, it admonishes us to do what we fully intend to do anyway,” he said. “It doesn’t change a lot.”

Residents happy

Mayville Clean Air Campaign is the name of the nonprofit group that some residents have formed. Jeff Bachmeier, who lives across the street from the elevator, has taken the lead as the main advocate. He said the campaign has received some financial contributions, but would not disclose how much.

News of the co-op’s change of heart Thursday morning brought a smile to his face.

“I never thought they would do it, I thought they would push through and do the things they wanted to,” Bachmeier said. “The fact they are willing to do it is very exciting, I would say 90 percent of the people will be more than pleased they are taking this step.”

On Wednesday, the city’s planning and zoning commission is scheduled to meet to discuss the two grain silos that Mayport Co-op is proposing on the corner of Main Street and Second Avenue.

Health problems

What set off Mayville residents was the two grain silos and grain dryer that the co-op added in 2006. As grain is loaded on trucks and trains, the dust circulates around the neighborhood.

The dust is so thick that it gets into the house and covers vehicles, Bachmeier said. In the winter, the dust blankets the snow.

Bachmeier did not have any breathing issues when he moved into his house in 2004, but by 2008, he said, he began to suffer from loss of breath and coughing because of the dust.

“I believe my real issues with my conditions began the end of 2006 and beginning of 2007 after the new additions went on.”

His medical records showed he did not have any breathing problems prior to 2008, he said. Since then, he’s had eight hospital visits, he said.

Other residents attribute respiratory problems to the elevator, but they did not want to speak up, he said.

‘Right direction’

According to Bachmeier, residents decided to hire lawyers Craig Richie in Fargo and Jay Harter in Lansing, Mich., after Mayport Co-op’s many unfulfilled promises to reduce the dust emission.

Richie said he is representing at least ten clients in Mayville as a result of the elevator.

It was Harter, an environmental law specialist, who sent the letter to the co-op’s board of directors and the mayor. The letter called the dust a “common law public nuisance to the citizens of Mayville,” which has resulted in property damage and personal injuries.

Mayor Moen said Thursday the board of directors didn’t appreciate the letter. “The threatening nature of the letter was disappointing.”

But since the board voted to install the new equipment, the letter doesn’t hold much weight anymore.

“I’m very satisfied they are taking this choice,” Bachmeier said. “You can’t take back anything that’s been done, but it’s a step in the right direction.”


Reach Jerke at (701) 787-6736; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1736; or send email to tjerke@gfherald.com.

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