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Buffalo Lake ethanol plant’s new owners will pay penalty for previous wastewater violation

ST. PAUL — The new owner of the ethanol plant in Buffalo Lake will be responsible for paying a $10,000 civil penalty resulting from a previous wastewater violation, according to information from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

In October 2012, Renville County officials reported a “white discoloration” in a section of Judicial Ditch 15 downstream from the plant. An MPCA inspection revealed that contaminated stormwater and cooling tower wastewater from the plant had been discharged to the ground, causing a storm pond to overflow, and eventually flowing to Judicial Ditch 15. The inspection also noted that the plant had failed to meet permit requirements for observing discharge limits, monitoring and reporting.

The ethanol plant was originally owned by Minnesota Energy. It is a cooperative previously permitted to produce up to 23.5 million gallons of ethanol per year. In June 2012 it licensed operation of the plant to Purified Renewable Energy, and transferred ownership in November 2012. Purified Renewable Energy has since filed for bankruptcy. The plant is now owned by Buffalo Lake Advanced Biofuels LLC, which is now responsible for the remaining corrective actions.

The penalty and cleanup are part of a stipulation agreement between Minnesota Energy and the MPCA. This type of agreement is one of the tools the agency uses to achieve compliance with environmental laws. When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violation affected the environment, whether it was a first-time or repeat violation, and how promptly the violation was reported to appropriate authorities. The agency also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.