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Officials investigate Corn Plus

By Staff | Sep 18, 2011

Corn Plus ethanol plant in Winnebago is facing legal problems once again.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is conducting a civil investigation.

“We are currently in ongoing negotiations with the MPCA and the EPA,” says Mark Drake, plant general manager.

“I’m hopeful there will be a resolution in a short period of time,” he adds.

Cathy Rofshus, information officer of the MPCA office in Rochester, says officials aren’t able to comment.

“If the MPCA is involved, there is likely some concern over an environmental permit,” she says.

Generally, a civil investigation results in a company paying a fine. However, state and federal officials could pursue criminal charges against persons involved in any wrongdoings.

Rofshus wouldn’t say when the investigation began or how soon it might be completed.

Last May, the Register reported Corn Plus’ plant manager, environmental health safety and purchasing managers were terminated.

At that time, Drake called the dismissals, “an internal matter.”

Drake says the terminations were the result of failing to comply with an agreement reached with the MPCA to resolve violations of permits issued by the agency.

A significant portion of the infractions alleged in the agreement relate to:

• operating an unpermitted wastewater disposal system;

• discharge of wastewater that violated surface water-quality standards;

• and the company’s failure to report the discharges.

In 2010, owners of the ethanol facility agreed to pay a $200,000 civil penalty and complete a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) totaling no less than $691,000.

The company also was fined $150,000 in 2009 to settle a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency criminal water-quality charge.