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Bushmills Ethanol must pay $425,000 MPCA penalty

ST. PAUL -- Bushmills Ethanol Inc. will pay a civil penalty of $425,000 to the Minnesota Pollution Control for a variety of alleged violations at the company's ethanol production facility in Atwater.

According to a MPCA news release, a portion of the penalty includes supplementary environmental projects valued at $175,000, which will be completed during the next four years.

The violations, which occurred from 2006 to 2009, were discovered during MPCA staff inspections and through review of required operational records by the company.

Numerous violations were identified, including producing ethanol above the facility's permitted limit, failure to inspect and maintain production and pollution control equipment, recordkeeping and reporting violations, and exceeding permitted wastewater discharge limits.

The facility started operation in December 2005 with permitted production capacity of 49 million gallons per year.

In August 2006, the company requested to increase its production limit to 65 million gallons per year, which required an amended air quality permit to be issued prior to making the change.

The MPCA granted the company's request in May 2007, but by that time the facility had already been out of compliance and was exceeding its permitted capacity.

Other violations related in part to the company's failure to regularly maintain, inspect and record information related to process and pollution control equipment as required in the facility's permit. These violations, combined with the overproduction, created a situation where the facility could potentially emit more regulated air pollutants than allowed by its permit.

The facility was permitted to discharge its wastewater and stormwater to a golf course for irrigation. Instead, the discharge was routed into the city of Atwater's storm sewer system without prior authorization from the MPCA.

The penalty agreement requires Bushmills to submit a proposal for the supplementary environmental projects to the MPCA for approval by October 2010 and to spend at least $175,000 on the projects. Supplementary environmental projects commonly are a component of environmental penalties. In addition to paying the civil penalty, the company agreed to correct the violations as well as create specific plans on how it will ensure compliance with permit limits and prevent reoccurrence of the violations in the future. Those requirements have been met.