An ethanol producer in central Minnesota has been tagged with a $425,000 civil penalty by state environmental regulators for a host of violations at its production facility.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) said Thursday that the violations by Bushmills Ethanol Inc. of Atwater stretched from 2006 to 2009. They included producing ethanol beyond the facility's permitted capacity, failure to inspect and maintain production and pollution-control equipment, and exceeding allowable wastewater discharge limits.
Because of Bushmills' violations, the MPCA said in a statement, the cooperative of more than 400 farmers "created a situation where the facility could potentially emit more regulated air pollutants than allowed by its permit."
Specifically, the agency said, "The facility had been permitted to discharge its wastewater and storm water to a golf course for irrigation. Instead, the discharge was routed into the city of Atwater's storm-sewer system" without state approval. The facility also "exceeded permitted discharge limits for regulated pollutants."
In addition to paying the penalty, Bushmills agreed to correct the violations and to create plans to ensure compliance. The MPCA said the cooperative has met those requirements.
MPCA spokesman Ralph Pribble characterized the financial portion of the penalty as "one of the bigger ones" that his agency has levied this year, topped only by a $766,000 penalty leveled against United Taconite LLC in Eveleth, Minn., for air-quality violations.
In a statement, Bushmills emphasized that the violations "played no role in polluting Minnesota's resources."
"Being a good neighbor and a positive asset to the community is a top priority for Bushmills," the statement continued. "We will continue to operate an efficient and operationally compliant facility."
On Saturday at Bushmills, a natural gas leak led to a fire, requiring nine fire departments to respond. No one was hurt and damage was minimal. Pribble said the fire had no connection to the cooperative's environmental violations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482