Used motor oil is in big demand in Plymouth.

Hoping to bring in used crude to stoke the new waste-oil burner installed last winter to heat the city's maintenance facility, Plymouth has teamed up with East Side Oil Cos. of St. Cloud to open a free used-oil dropoff center for the public.

The site accepts used hydraulic, lawn mower and automobile oil, used antifreeze and used oil filters 24 hours a day at the maintenance facility at 14900 23rd Av. N. Containers may not be left at the site.

After the city began using the waste-oil burner last winter to heat the office and lunchroom in the maintenance facility, it became clear that city vehicles would not generate enough used oil for the heating season, said Tom Vetsch, fleet and facilities manager for Plymouth.

That's when the idea of a public dropoff center arose. Plymouth and East Side Oil will split the oil that comes in.

East Side Oil makes money by buying used motor oil from 1,300 commercial firms, including service stations, and selling it for use in oil burners that heat asphalt hot-mix plants, said owner Jim Feneis.

The company also works with more than 51 public entities, including 11 counties, on dropoff sites such as the one in Plymouth, Feneis said. In the metro area, it has another dropoff center in Brooklyn Park.

An estimated 32 percent of people change their own car oil, and if it is disposed of improperly it can be a major pollutant, Feneis said.

"Just a short decade or two ago everybody was told just pour it on the ground -- it holds down the dust and it kills the weeds."

But oil spread on the ground can seep through to underground water reserves, Feneis said. Environmental experts suggest that "one gallon of mismanaged motor oil can render as much as 1 million gallons of drinking water undrinkable," he said.

East Side Oil is sponsoring a grand opening picnic at the Plymouth site from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 17.

The oil burner in Plymouth is still too new for the city to know how much money it will save, Vetsch said.

"We have been measuring how many gallons a day we burn on average, and we are trying to figure out how many gallons we will need in the course of a heating season. But we know it's saving us money because we are not buying natural gas. "

Laurie Blake • 612-673-1711