Highwater Ethanol, LLC agreed to pay a $150,000 civil penalty to resolve alleged violations of the company's environmental permits at its ethanol production facility in Lamberton, says the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
The agreement covers violations that have occurred since the facility began production in August 2009. From startup until recently, the company's operations have resulted in numerous violations of the facility's air quality and water quality permits.
The most serious violations involved the facility's wastewater-treatment system, MPCA says. Part of the system includes an on-site constructed pond which is permitted to receive only reject water from the reverse osmosis treatment system, yet unpermitted discharges were made to the pond repeatedly from other components of the facility. This caused the capacity of the RO pond to be exceeded. To get rid of the excess, the company applied wastewater from the pond onto cropland, a treatment method for which the facility is not permitted.
Both the unpermitted land application and exceedances of the pond's capacity have the potential to negatively impact ground and surface water.
Other violations of the facility's water quality permit included failure to operate and maintain the wastewater-treatment system in a manner that would be protective of the environment, failure to apply for a required permit modification for the land application, and failure to notify the MPCA of the unpermitted discharges.
There were also a number of violations of the facility's air quality permit, including failure to conduct monitoring at required intervals, maintain required operating parameters, maintain monitoring records, and submit required data to the MPCA.
In addition to paying the penalty, Highwater Ethanol agreed to a schedule of specific corrective actions to achieve compliance, including specific plans on how it will ensure compliance with the environmental permit limits and prevent reoccurrence of the violations in the future. The company has ceased the unauthorized wastewater disposal.) Failure to comply with the schedule in the agreement will result in further penalties.
When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violations affected the environment, whether they were first-time or repeat violations, and how promptly they were reported to appropriate authorities. Penalties also attempt to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.
For a comprehensive list of enforcement actions by the MPCA, go to the agency's Website at www.pca.state.mn.us/newscenter/enforcement.html.