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Appleton to pay $20,052 in MPCA fines due to pollution from wastewater treatment plant

APPLETON -- The city of Appleton will pay $20,052.87 in civil penalties after reaching a stipulation agreement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for violations at its wastewater treatment plant.

City Council members and representatives of Del Dee Foods Inc. are planning to hold a meeting with the MPCA, possibly in early January. The company asked for the meeting before it is assessed a share of the fines by the city.

The violations resulted when Del Dee Foods discharged 4,500 gallons of spoiled whey to the wastewater treatment plant from Dec. 27, 2006, to Jan. 6, 2007, according to the stipulation agreement.

General manager Mike Lind of Del Dee Foods described the situation as an unusual circumstance.

A tanker of whey was stranded for three days by a snowstorm in Nebraska. When it arrived at the Del Dee facility in Appleton, the company asked the wastewater treatment plant if it could discharge the spoiled product over five days with its wash water.

It received oral permission to do, but the city said it had given approval for 1,700 gallons.

In all, the MPCA cited the city for 11 alleged violations. It charged that the city accepted wastes that led to discharges to the Pomme de Terre River in violation of certain limits of its permit.

The wastewater plant had also failed to regulate the discharge from Del Dee to prevent a pass-through of pollutants or an inhibition or disruption of the facility, according to the allegations. Other charges included alleged reporting violations and failure to test the materials as required.

At their Dec. 12 meeting, Appleton City Council members had considered billing $3,125 of the fines assessed to People's Service Inc. The city contracts with the company to operate the treatment plant.

The council members had also considered assessing $16,927.87 of the fines to Del Dee Foods Inc.

ton plant.

He added that the company, city and wastewater treatment plant operators have also worked out better communication policies to protect against problems as well.

As part of the stipulation agreement, $5,950 of the penalty payments will fund a project to prevent erosion where storm water reaches the Pomme de Terre River near Thielke Avenue in the city.

Del Dee Foods of Appleton produces a calf milk replacement product from dairy products including whey. The family-owned and -operated business has been producing animal nutrition products in Appleton for 22 years, and currently employs 17 people.

Council members will instead determine how to assess Del Dee Foods and People's Service after the public meeting is held.

Bob Thompson, Appleton city coordinator, and Lind said the city and company have taken steps to prevent a similar situation from occurring again. Lind noted that Del Dee Foods would normally not have accepted delivery of the spoiled materials. The predicament caused by the snowstorm and the timing of the shipment's arrival during the holidays led the company to accept the partially spoiled product.

He said the company has since contracted with another wastewater treatment plant to process wastes that might be too strong to send to the Appleton plant.