State pollution control officials pulled the plug Tuesday on a troublesome dairy near Thief River Falls that has violated air quality rules hundreds of times during the past few years. On a unanimous vote, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizens' Board decided in effect to shut down Excel Dairy when its permit expires Wednesday.
HOW UNUSUAL IS THIS?
It is the first time the state has taken such action against a dairy, according to Gaylen Reetz, director of MPCA's regional division.
WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?
Odors from the dairy's manure lagoons drove nearby residents from their homes and caused state health authorities to declare Excel a public health hazard in 2008. One year ago the Citizens' Board revoked the dairy's regular permit and replaced it with a special one-year permit with specific deadlines to clean out manure basins and make other changes.
WHAT DID THE COMPANY SAY?
An attorney for Excel said Tuesday that the dairy missed some deadlines but has now completed most of the work that the state required. He said the dairy removed all of its 1,545 cows more than a year ago, and some of the work does not need to be finished until cows are returned.
HOW DID THE MPCA RESPOND?
Officials said that Excel made excuses, blamed others, delayed work and broke promises that it would clean up the problems. "I honestly think that what the company is doing here is playing games," said Robert Roche, an assistant attorney general for the MPCA.
IS THIS THE END OF THE STORY?
It's too soon to say. Last year the dairy challenged the legitimacy of the one-year permit that MPCA issued, and that matter is unresolved. The dairy is also under orders from Marshall County District Court to correct its problems. Until those matters are cleared up, it is not known whether Excel or some successor company will try to operate a dairy there in the future.
Tom Meersman 612-673-7388