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Board questions plan to dump in Blue Earth River

By Staff | Jan 10, 2011

Michele Stindtman

Faribault County commissioners are keeping a close eye on an ethanol plant located in Fairmont.

BioFuel Energy Corp. has contacted the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) about changing the location of where the facility discharges its treated wastewater.

In December, commissioners asked Michele Stindtman, program administrator of Faribault County Soil & Water Conservation District/Planning and Zoning, to compile information regarding BioFuel’s request.

On Tuesday, Stindtman presented her findings.

The company is considering two options:

• upgrading its existing facility;

• building a 20-mile pipeline to discharge its wastewater into the Blue Earth River north of Blue Earth or just south of Winnebago.

Stindtman told the board BioFuel is seeking preliminary effluent limits for its discharge if they pick a new location.

“I do think the board needs to have this on their radar,” she says.

Lee Ganske of the MPCA Office in Mankato says the company seeking a different discharge point is related to water quality violations they have had in the past.

Last October, operator of the ethanol plant agreed to pay a civil penalty of $285,000 to resolve alleged violations of air and water quality permits.

“I have a concern of shifting a problem from Fairmont to Faribault County. I don’t like it being a problem for us locally so it works out economically somewhere else,” says Commissioner Tom Loveall.

The District 4 commissioner represents the cities of Delavan, Easton and Winnebago, as well as the townships of Barber, Delavan, Lura, Prescott and Winnebago.

According to the MPCA, the company discharged wastewater into Center Creek that was above permitted toxicity limits which was potential harm to aquatic organisms.

Commissioner Tom Warmka doesn’t think it makes much sense to put wastewater that may contain pollutants into a river that is already considered to be polluted.

Like Loveall, the other commissioners believe the company should properly treat the wastewater before dumping it in Faribault County.

Ganske says because the Blue Earth River is a larger body of water, it would provide plenty of dilution.

Loveall has some doubt, saying the river’s water level is quite low at times during the year.

“It’s the old saying, ‘the solution to pollution is dilution,'” he says.

Currently, the ethanol plant discharges about 500,000 gallons of wastewater a day into Center Creek.

Former county commissioner Loren Lein warned the board to stay on top of the issue.

“They have a lot of power over there, with (Sen.) Rosen. If you don’t speak up, you are going to be in trouble,” he says.

The commissioners asked Stindtman to inform them of any new developments and when they could give comments on the project.