ORONOCO — Trucks hauling away equipment had the city of Oronoco buzzing Tuesday as the owners of Oronoco Auto Parts began dismantling their business.

The former auto salvage yard in the 400 block of First Street Southeast has been a focus of contention in the town for a couple of years. 

A big part of the ire in the city surrounds a metal smelter that had been brought into a building on the city side — the salvage yard had adjoining property in both the city of Oronoco and Oronoco Township — of the business in the summer of 2017. 

That smelter, said Oronoco Mayor Ryland Eichhorst, was loaded onto a flatbed Tuesday morning to be hauled out of town. Eichhorst said he spoke to workers on the site who said the smelter had been sold to a business in Plano, Texas.

By Tuesday afternoon, the smelter was gone, and the smokestacks that had been connected to the smelter were disassembled and placed on a separate flatbed awaiting their own trip out of town. 

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Brandon Evans, who lives next door to the salvage yard, said there has been some activity at the site for the past couple of days as work crews have began hauling away items from the salvage yard. 

"For the most part, they're cleaning stuff up," Evans said. "But there's still a random pile of stuff in the yard."

In all, four semi tractor-trailer flatbeds were on site Tuesday. 

Chris Erickson, owner of Oronoco Auto Parts, confirmed the smelter oven has been sold. Since the city would not allow use of the oven due to zoning regulations, he said it was time to sell. 

"The oven was never fully assembled, never hooked up and never turned on," Erickson said, adding that the gas company can confirm no fuel was purchased for the oven.

While the removal of the smelter was good news to several neighbors who had fought against its installation, car parts, tires and box trucks remain on the salvage yard site. 

Eichhorst said the box trucks are reportedly where the owners had stored containers full of automotive fluids that had been drained from cars before the junkers were disassembled and crushed on the site. 

Residents of the township who live downstream of the salvage yard are still cleaning up from the environmental damage caused by the June 28 and July 5 flooding in Oronoco. 

Jason Hawksford, a hazardous waste compliance officer with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said his team is "pursing an enforcement action with the regulated party," meaning the owners of the salvage yard. Part of that, he said, is working with the owners to let them know what needs to be brought into compliance on the site.

Erickson said the recent activity is just the start of the cleanup efforts at the former salvage yard.  

"There will be ongoing cleaning for a couple of months," he said. "There's a lot of tires and a lot of trucks and stuff, a lot of cars that need to be taken to a scrap dealer."