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MPCA fines 3 companies for violations in northwest MN

Knife River Materials was one of three companies fined by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for violations in the northwest region.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency web art

ST. PAUL -- Three Minnesota companies were fined by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in the first half of 2021 for violations in the region.

In total, the MPCA has closed 90 enforcement cases related to air quality, waste, stormwater and wastewater violations in 2021. According to a press release, several of these investigations take several months, and in some cases, more than a year to complete.

The penalties are calculated using several factors, including harm done to the environment, the economic benefit the company gained by failing to comply with laws, or how responsive and cooperative a regulated party was in correcting problems.

Locally, the Bemidji company Knife River Materials was penalized in February for industrial wastewater violations at a nonmetallic aggregate mining facility near Mentor, Minn. In total, Knife River was fined $17,525 after MPCA staff confirmed that sediment-laden mine pit water had been discharged into Lower Badger Creek and a nearby ditch, the release said.

For 18 days, the company discharged dredged mine pit water to surface water, which is not permitted, and then installed berms to stop the discharge. The company's discharges also exceeded permitted limits and caused nuisance conditions in surface waters.

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Additionally, the company didn't report the problems to either the Minnesota State Deputy Officer or the MPCA, which is required. Knife River also failed to recover the sediment that had left the site.

Along with the penalization, the MPCA required the company to stop discharging the mine pit water directly into surface water at all of its sites. The company also had to submit a procedure for how to report and respond to discharges that exceed permit limits.

The $17,525 fine on Knife River is the seventh highest so far this year by the MPCA. Water Gremlin Co. received the highest fine of $325,000 for failing to properly manage oil and hazardous waste, resulting in leaks into stormwater in White Bear Township.

Another regional violation was by the American Crystal Sugar Co., in Crookston. The MPCA states that American Crystal Sugar had several unauthorized releases of wastewater between November 2018 and September 2020.

The company also failed to properly maintain equipment to ensure efficient operations in Crookston. As a result, American Crystal Sugar was fined $6,839 in May.

Ruttger's Birchmont Lodge, north of Bemidji, was also fined by the MPCA this year for a municipal wastewater violation. The company was fined $4,000 in April.

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