Agency fines area firms

FAIRMONT — The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says it recently fined two ag-related businesses in Fairmont for air quality violations.

In both cases, the businesses undertook corrective actions and subsequently passed follow-up testing, according to the Pollution Control Agency.

CHS, which operates an oilseed processing plant in Fairmont, was fined $6,720 for violations related to particulate matter. Jenna Ness, a St. Paul-based case lead for the agency, says CHS exceeded air quality standards by 467 percent involving one grinder.

She said particulate matter represents a threat to those with existing respiratory problems, and long-term exposure can lead to a variety of serious health conditions.

Ness noted that the violation at CHS stemmed from its own testing, conducted by a third party, as mandated by environmental permits. She said the test failure occurred in November 2017. The agency issued its fine in October 2018.

Ness said there is one other violation in the history of the local CHS plant. It occurred in 2012, when a test involving a pellet cooler exceeded particulate matter standards by 62 percent. The agency took enforcement action against CHS in 2013.

The other business recently fined by the agency is Cargill, which operates a grain facility in Fairmont. It was fined $5,950, also for violations related to particulate matter in emissions.

Ness said the problem involved a grain leg, with third-party testing showing emissions exceeding standards by as much as 75 percent. The test took place in December 2016.

When permit holders are faced with non-compliance problems, the issues are typically resolved through changes to equipment, control equipment or processes.

“Imposing monetary penalties is only part of the MPCA’s enforcement process,” said agency spokesman Steve Mikkelson. “Agency staff continue to provide assistance, support and information on the steps and tools necessary to achieve compliance for any company, individual or local government that requests it.

The fines levied by the agency against CHS and Cargill were two of 31 enforcement cases in 25 counties in the fourth quarter of 2018. Penalties from all 31 cases totaled more than $158,000. In all of 2018, the agency completed 194 cases, totaling $1 million.

Other violations resulting in fines in the region included:

o Agri-Energy in Luverne, for air quality violations, fined $15,145.

o Swift Pork Company in Worthington, for air quality violations, fined $13,254.

o Crystal Valley Cooperative in Jackson, for air quality violations, fined $13,025.

o Michelle and Matthew Brown of Lake Crystal, for subsurface sewage treatment system violations, fined $1,000.