Langmo ends service on MPCA board

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 3/15/00.

Keith Langmo For the past 18 years, Keith Langmo has been intricately involved with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, primarily through his membership on its citizens' board.

Langmo, a summer resident of Lake Koronis, has served four four-year terms on the citizens' board, from 1982 to 1990 and from 1992 to 2000. His latest term expired in January. Between stints on the board, he served on an interim commission that selected the current MPCA commissioner.

The citizens' board has nine members from the public and the MPCA commissioner now serves as its permanent chairman. Prior to the inclusion of the commissioner as chairman, Langmo served three years as the board's chairman. He also served as the assistant chairman for five years.

The board exists as an outlet for any citizen who wants to present their case before a different authority. In such cases, the board frequently has to review Environmental Assessment Worksheets (EAW) or Environmental Impact Statements (EIS). In other cases, they may decide if an EAW or EIS is needed.

Any large problem eventually ends up in front of the citizens' board, according to Langmo. During his time, the board dealt with controversial issues like incinerators in Rochester and Hennepin County, sediment and pollution of the St. Louis River, and cleanup of the Mississippi River.

He points to the Hennepin County incinerator, which burns 1,000 tons of garbage per day while operating below the emission standards set by the MPCA, and to the Mississippi River, where sewage discharges into the river have been reduced by 80 percent from 25 years ago, as major successes during his service on the MPCA board.

Along with the revamping of the MPCA feedlot rules, he expects a similar cleanup of the Minnesota River to be important MPCA projects in the near future.

One problem that concerns Langmo is the increasing amount of garbage. "Our garbage is increasing 10 percent a year," he said. "One of the larger contributors to this is packaging."

Energy is used to make the packaging, and then to get rid of it. "We've developed into a more throw-away, wasteful society," Langmo said.

Disposable diapers and the packaging of a TV dinner must be thrown away, and Minnesota still exports 30,000 tons of garbage each year. "Look at the amount of garbage we create with our convenient living," he explained. "It's getting to be a larger and larger problem."

With the advance of technology, electronic appliances and equipment quickly becomes obsolete and needs to be disposed of. Langmo said technology is being developed to recycle the components of these televisions, and computers through shredding. He compared it to tires, which presented a disposal problem a decade ago.

Langmo lived in Paynesville from 1958 to 1966 and has had a summer home on Lake Koronis since 1970. As a partner in Langmo Farms, a turkey operation based in Litchfield, Langmo was appointed to the board as someone knowledgeable in agriculture. The citizens' board also has representatives from labor and industry to give it balance.

Between 40 and 50 percent of the board's time was spent on agriculture, Langmo estimated. He said agriculture is going through a revolution. In the older generation of farmers, one can still find people who pride themselves in never missing a milking. Younger people, Langmo said, want to be involved in agriculture but don't want all the restrictions on their lifestyle.

The citizens board meets the fourth Tuesday of each month. For years, they met the preceding Monday in committee, but now meet in committee on Tuesday morning and have the board meeting in the afternoon.

The meetings weren't the only commitment to serving on the board. Langmo said the reading was highly technical and voluminous.

"It's just about the only agency that has a citizens' board to conduct business," Langmo said. "I think it's a great concept, rather than just being done by bureaucrats."

"It was a great experience," he added. "It's a wonderful agency, and I made a lot of friends."

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