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Published December 15, 2009, 04:02 PM

Judge cancels hearing in TRF dairy suit

A hearing was canceled Tuesday in Marshall County District Court in a civil suit filed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency against a rural Thief River Falls dairy.

By: Kevin Bonham, Grand Forks Herald

WARREN, Minn. — A hearing was canceled Tuesday in Marshall County District Court in a civil suit filed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency against a rural Thief River Falls dairy.

Judge Donald Aandal refused to hear the case, which now is being transferred to Judge Kurt Marben in neighboring Pennington County District Court, according to the court administrator’s office.

The MPCA is suing The Dairy Dozen, doing business as Excel Dairy. The dairy, which opened in 2007, is located in Marshall County, just a few miles outside of the city of Thief River Falls.

It was ordered closed early this year after the Minnesota Department of Health determined it was violating state air quality laws.

Manure basins at the mega dairy, which is licensed for 1,544 animal units, emit hydrogen sulfide. State air quality laws limit the emissions to less than 30 parts per billion.

Hydrogen sulfide can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting and weakness, according to the state Health Department.

About 40 people live within one mile of the dairy.

The MPCA Citizens Advisory Board revoked the dairy’s operating permit in April, then issued a one-year temporary permit on the condition that operators comply with regulations.

The facility stores manure in a series of three clay-lined basins. The manure is moved from basin to basin as it breaks down over time, much like a system of waste-water lagoons.

The new permit required the first basin to be sealed with a layer of straw; the second basin would have an impermeable synthetic seal and allow for the collection and flaring of gases; and the third basin would have a permeable seal, letting some gases escape.

The MPCA ordered that dairy cows cannot be returned to the megadairy until the facility is in compliance.

So far, the dairy has missed several MPCA-imposed deadlines.

In the meantime, the dairy has filed an application for a new operating permit, which would go into effect when the current one-year temporary permit expires in April.

Reach Bonham at (701) 780-1110; (800) 477-6572, ext. 110; or send e-mail to kbonham@gfherald.com.

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