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Published December 22, 2008, 12:00 AM

Crystal Sugar to pay $185,000 for emissions violations

MOORHEAD, Minn. — American Crystal Sugar Co. will pay a $185,000 penalty for exceeding air emissions standards at its Moorhead, East Grand Forks and Crookston plants in Minnesota from 2005 to 2007.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

MOORHEAD, Minn. — American Crystal Sugar Co. will pay a $185,000 penalty for exceeding air emissions standards at its Moorhead, East Grand Forks and Crookston plants in Minnesota from 2005 to 2007.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced the stipulation agreement with the farmer-owned cooperative Dec. 16. Besides paying a civil penalty, Crystal will take steps to avoid future violations.

David Berg, president and chief executive officer, says the company in the past year has demonstrated that they can get better results.

“That’s our goal, to keep them improving all the time,” Berg says.

Improving efficiency

One example is purchasing an ice mat to protect a deep freeze pile in the East Grand Forks yard, he says. Beyond the penalty itself, the company is investing “several millions” to better manage and treat wastewater for plants in the future.

“There is a lot more capital behind it to give us a better environmental profile,” Berg says.

Significantly, the co-op also has cut its processing season at the East Grand Forks plant in 2008. This balanced its federal sugar marketing allocation but also cut the campaign length for odor control.

Emissions

The agency says Crystal violated hydrogen sulfide emission limits in Moorhead, East Grand Forks and Crookston in 2005, 2006 and 2007, monitored with automated devices on the edges of the three factory grounds.

Dan Olson, the agency spokesman, says there were no enforcement actions at any of the plants 2008.

Hydrogen sulfide, often called “rotten egg gas,” can come from decomposing sugar beets. It can be “hazardous to human health at certain concentrations,” according to the agency’s release.

Stipulation

The agreement also covers fine particle emission violations in Moorhead and East Grand Forks. Excessive particulate matter emission can have “a range of negative health impacts on people with respiratory and cardiac conditions,” the agency says.

Specifically, a stack for a pulp pellet cooler at the East Grand Forks factory in October 2007 emitted 0.36 pounds per hour while the limit is 0.25 pounds per hour.

Separately, a lime kiln at the Moorhead factory temporary emitted excessive particles in November 2007. In that case, fine particle emissions were 8.7 pounds per hour while the limit was 5 pounds per hour.

In figuring penalties, the agency accounts for several things, including the environmental affect, whether there are repeat violations and the promptness of the company’s reporting.

“It also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws, in a timely matter.”

The company’s plants in Drayton and Hillsboro, N.D., don’t have stipulation agreements that set hydrogen sulfide levels, Berg says.