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Ethanol plant fined $425,000

Bushmills Ethanol Inc. will pay a civil penalty totaling $425,000 for a variety of alleged violations at the company's ethanol production facility in Atwater.

A portion of the penalty includes supplementary environmental projects, valued at $175,000, which will be completed by the company during the next four years.

The violations, which occurred from 2006 to 2009, were discovered during Minnesota Pollution Control Agency staff inspections of the facility and through review of operational records the company is required to submit to the MPCA under its environmental permits.

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 a permitted production capacity of 49 million gallons of denatured ethanol per year. In August 2006, the company requested an amendment to the permit 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 to amend the permit in May 2007, but by that time the facility had already been out of compliance and was exceeding its permitted capacity.

Other air-quality 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 had been 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. Additionally, the facility exceeded permitted discharge limits for regulated pollutants.

The penalty agreement requires Bushmills Ethanol Inc. to submit a proposal for the SEPs to the MPCA by October 2010, and

to spend at least $175,000 on the projects.