Minnesota plant receives large fine for wastewater violations

By Kris Bevill | April 23, 2012

Bushmills Ethanol Inc., a 65 Mmgy production facility in Atwater, Minn., recently paid an $800,000 civil penalty for illegal wastewater discharges occurring from August 2008 through December 2009, according to the state Pollution Control Agency. The agency said the facility released wastewater containing unpermitted levels of dissolved minerals and other pollutants into a local drainage ditch and then provided misleading information to the state about the discharges, which gave reason for the stiff penalty.

“This action shows our commitment to safeguarding Minnesota’s waters,” MPCA Commissioner Paul Aasen said in a statement. “There are many companies that follow the rules to protect our air, water and land and we applaud them. But when companies break the rules they not only harm our natural resources, they get an unfair competitive advantage and they must be held accountable.”

According to the MPCA, Bushmills was issued a wastewater discharge permit on April 3, 2007, which contained a requirement for the company to install and begin operating a wastewater treatment system by Aug. 15, 2008. The company claimed it had complied with that requirement and said its discharges were meeting the state’s standards, but, through onsite visits and analysis of the plant’s monitoring data, agency officials discovered that the system operated out of compliance through 2009.

The ditch that Bushmills Ethanol released wastewater into is a low-flow/headwaters type stream that at times has no dilution, according to an MPCA investigator, which means the water is highly sensitive to contaminants. The ditch empties into the middle fork of the Crow River in southeastern Minnesota, which eventually feeds into the Mississippi River. The MPCA said the plant’s illegal discharges have the potential to harm fish and other aquatic organisms, in the ditch, the Crow River and in downstream waters.

In addition to the fine, Bushmills has agreed to a compliance schedule for completing corrective actions, which includes specific plans to ensure compliance with the facility’s environmental permit limits. A Bushmills representative could not be reached for comment.