According to a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) enforcement investigation, Denco II LLC violated several industrial wastewater, stormwater, and air quality regulations between 2017 and 2022 at its ethanol production facility in Morris, Minn.
MPCA staff inspections confirmed that the company had applied about 1.25 million gallons of wastewater to area agricultural fields without a required permit from 2017 to 2021. Denco II’s permit requires testing wastewater and soils prior to applying to land, and ensuring a certified land application professional oversees the process.
During the fall of 2021 three separate spills of byproduct, known as beer mash and wet cake, flowed onto the ground and into the facility’s stormwater drain system. The company was slow to report the spills to the Minnesota Duty Officer, which threatened nearby wetlands. Other violations included:
- Exceeding pollutant limits for industrial stormwater discharges more than 30 times in 2021 and 2022. Such discharges can reduce oxygen in receiving waters and harm aquatic life.
- Accepting ethanol fuel and industrial waste alcohol to incorporate into its system at higher alcohol concentrations than allowed in its air permit.
- Missing deadlines for required air emissions tests for nitrogen oxide and particulate matter.
In addition to paying the $250,000 civil penalty, Denco II has agreed to complete a series of corrective actions to resolve the violations including:
- Hiring a third-party consultant to evaluate the facility’s discharges and recommend improvements to help prevent future effluent exceedances.
- Installing a series of cameras to help quickly identify and respond to future spills.
- Conducting comprehensive staff training on the facility’s environmental requirements.
- Hiring a third-party consultant to complete annual environmental audits of the facility operations to help ensure compliance with environmental regulations.
- Submitting proper permit modification applications appropriate to anticipated changes to facility operations.
MPCA rules and regulations are designed to protect human health and the environment by limiting pollution emissions and discharges from facilities. When companies do not fully comply with regulatory requirements, the resulting pollution can be harmful to people and the environment.
When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violations affected or could have affected the environment, and whether they were first-time or repeat violations. The agency also attempts to recover the economic benefit the company gained by failing to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.