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Mercury, diesel fuel found at abandoned power plant; water being tested

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A hazardous discovery at a former southern Minnesota power plant has officials concerned about the potential environmental impact.

KAAL reports authorities found about 5 pounds of mercury and a diesel fuel spill at the abandoned Dairy Land power plant in Twin Lakes.

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The problem was first discovered May 26, when the son of the former owner (who recently died) visited the site to collect something, KIMT reports. Inside, he found a bottle of mercury, and also a thick layer of diesel fuel floating on top of several feet of water.

Officials with Freeborn County Emergency Management and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency were contacted, and extremely high levels of mercury were detected in that area of the building, the Albert Lea Tribune reports.

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MPCA officials have since cleaned up the room where the mercury was found, removing about 5 pounds' worth of the substance, stored in various bottles. Only trace amounts of the substance can still be detected in cracks on the floor, the paper says.

Testing was done on three wells and municipal water to check for contamination; none show mercury or diesel fuel present, KTTC reports.

The former plant was sold to a local family about two decades ago and used as a place to do auto work, until the last owner died last month, KAAL says.

But there are still questions about when the spill actually occurred, and whether the proper paperwork transferring ownership of the property was filed, according to KTTC.

So who will pay the minimum $45,000 required for the clean-up? It's still not clear, reports say.

Officials are working to stabilize the site, which they hope to have done within the next week.

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