On May 12, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and U.S. EPA announced a settlement with the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative over water and air quality pollution violations. The cooperative has agreed to correct the violations and will pay more than $1.5 million in penalties. The violations, which occurred over a period of years at the coop’s processing plant near Renville, MN, included excessive hydrogen sulfide emissions, which cause odors and can be harmful to human health, and wastewater discharges, which resulted in a 2013 fish kill in Beaver Creek.
The agreement reached by the MPCA and EPA is a consent decree filed in district court addressing wastewater violations of the federal Clean Water Act, and of the coop’s wastewater permit. The agreement requires the coop to prepare a contingency plan, conduct regular monitoring and sampling, prepare models to predict possible violations, submit timely reports, and pay a $1 million penalty. In addition, the coop must pay more than $49,000 to the Department of Natural Resources in restitution for the fish kill. A separate agreement with MPCA addresses air pollution violations. The company will take additional steps to curb hydrogen sulfide air emissions, and pay a $485,000 civil penalty.