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Likely source of Vermillion River diesel leak was not supposed to be there

The environmental service contractor Beterman Brownie, Inc. was called in to "vacuum" diesel from the Vermillion River as part of Wednesday's cleanup efforts. The company returned to Farmington on Thursday to continue the work.

Farmington planning director Lee Smick isn't sure when, or how, the property at the corner of Willow and Fourth streets went from storage to salvage. One thing is certain -- salvage yards like the one that sprung up at that location are not allowed within city limits.

The property came to Smick's attention last week after a catch basin filled with diesel fuel leaked into the Vermillion River

The property used to be used for storage for Landscape Depot, owned by Collin Garvey, but it had been vacant for several years. About a year ago, Smick said, Garvey approached the city, asking for a permit to use the property for metal recycling and storage, which is different than actually dismantling vehicles on-site. The city's ordinances do not allow for salvage yard activity, which is what the latter is considered.

"I was under the impression it was going to be for the storage of metal," she said. "Neatly cut, stacked metal."

Over the previous couple of weeks, Smick and assistant city planner Tony Wippler had noticed an increase of activity at the Fourth and Willow property. However, when she arrived at the property Wednesday, she found, among other things, a Greyhound bus on the property, ready to be dismantled.

Garvey owns the property, but the salvage activity was being conducted by Castle Rock resident Cole Empey. Almost a year ago, Empey was convicted of misdemeanor charges for unlawful outdoor storage and violating a zoning ordinance in Castle Rock Township, where he had been conducting similar salvage activities. Empey is on probation for those charges through April 4, 2012.

As of Monday, Smick said she had not been able to sit down with Garvey to find out exactly what was happening on his property.

Charges are expected to come from last week's diesel spill, but those charges will likely come from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which is investigating the matter.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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