Farm, factory get top pollution fines

  • Article by: JANE FRIEDMANN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 24, 2010 - 8:57 AM

A cattle farmer and a circuit board factory topped the list of Minnesota polluters with the biggest fines in the second quarter of 2010.

I examined the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's quarterly report of enforcement actions for air, water, toxic waste and other violations. The agency inspected about 1,200 facilities from April through June and took action against 46 of them after investigations found the facilities had violated pollution rules.

The agency assessed $347,236 in penalties.

All 11 violators listed have either paid the fines and corrected the violations or have agreed to do so.

1 (tie) Joe Varner, Clarissa, fined $45,000 for feedlot violations.

Varner, a cattle farmer, allowed manure-tainted sediment and runoff to pollute nearby streams and rivers.

Varner also had more cattle than the county allows and failed to get a required pollution permit for his feedlot, the agency said.

1 (tie) Universal Circuits Inc., Maple Grove, fined $45,000 for hazardous waste violations.

The business was cited for failing to quickly and thoroughly clean up spilled corrosive chemicals, solvents and other hazardous wastes. Pollutants breached a trench and soaked into nearby soil.

The agency also cited the company for improper storage of hazardous waste and inadequate training and recordkeeping.

3 Nexus Diversified Community Service, Golden Valley, and Nor-Son Inc., Baxter, fined $33,250 for storm-water violations related to the companies' construction activities near Onamia. The companies allowed sediment and hydraulic oil to pollute wetlands that drain into the Rum River.

4 Minnesota Department of Transportation and Northland Constructors, Duluth, fined $27,000 for storm-water violations during construction work on Hwy. 53.

Inspectors found that 70 to 100 cubic yards of construction-related sediment had flowed into wetlands. Some of the sediment ended up in Miller Creek, a designated trot stream.

5 Montag Development Inc., North Mankato, and Oak Terrace Senior Housing of Gaylord LLC fined $22,750 for asbestos violations.

The MPCA received a complaint that asbestos-laden floor and ceiling tiles were being removed from the occupied residence and thrown in a Dumpster during renovation of the basement.

6 Pro Blast Technology Inc., a sandblasting and painting company in Pengilly, fined $22,000 for hazardous waste violations.

The MPCA found the company's equipment didn't keep sandblasting granules from drifting off-site. The company also was cited for storage, labeling and permit issues.

7 ArcelorMittal Minorca Mine, Inc., a taconite plant in Virginia, fined $19,000 for exceeding permitted air emission levels in 2006 and 2009.

8 Crow Wing Feeders, Pillager, fined $15,000 for feedlot violations.

Liquid manure storage areas were not designed properly and the company had nearly 2,700 head of cattle, 1,860 more than permitted.

9 (tie) Stockman Transfer, Glencoe, fined $10,000 for hazardous waste violations in Pine River.

9 (tie) Denco LLC, an ethanol plant in Morris, fined $10,000 for water-quality violations.

9 (tie) United Taconite LLC, a taconite plant in Forbes, fined $10,000 for air-quality violations.

Each week, Hard Data digs into public records and puts a spotlight on rule breakers in the Twin Cities and Minnesota. You can contact me at jfriedmann@startribune.com.

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