Ethanol facility faces environmental penalty

Corn Plus to pay $891,000 in penalties and install equipment to control resource use and reduce facility discharges.
By David Greenfield February 15, 2010

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) hasannounced that Corn Plus will pay a $200,000 civil penalty and complete aSupplemental Environmental Project (SEP) costing no less than $691,000 for a varietyof alleged water-quality violations at the company’s ethanol productionfacility in Winnebago.

Earlier in 2009, Corn Plus paid a penalty totaling$150,000 to resolve a criminal water quality charge brought by the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency.

The violations, occurring from 2006 to 2008, were

documented during MPCA staff inspections of the facility following complaints

of odorous and discolored discharges to nearby surface waters, and after law

enforcement personnel observed similar discharges. Eventually it was found that

the wastewater discharges from a cooling tower at the facility had been

illegally connected to a stormwater system that discharged to Rice Lake

via a county ditch.

A significant portion of the violations alleged in

the agreement relate to operating an unpermitted wastewater-disposal system;

unpermitted discharge of wastewater that violated surface water-quality

standards and caused nuisance conditions; failure to prevent the unpermitted

discharges; and failure to report the unpermitted discharges and disposal

system.

As part of the penalty agreement, the company willinstall a closed-loop heat-transfer system that will reduce overall water usageat the facility by 10 million gallons and reduce discharges to the Winnebago wastewatertreatment facility by about 6 million gallons annually. The SEP also calls forthe company to install more efficient lighting. The new lighting and heattransfer systems will also reduce energy consumption at the facility. Thecompany agreed to complete the SEP by September 2010.

In addition to the civil penalty and SEP, thecompany agreed to a compliance schedule for completing corrective actions,including specific plans on how it will ensure compliance with the facility’senvironmental permit limits and prevent reoccurrence of the violations in thefuture.

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– Edited by David Greenfield , editorial director
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