According to a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) enforcement investigation, Plainview Milk Products Cooperative allowed about 6,900 gallons of cream spilled inside its facility to drain through its wastewater and sewer system, which leads to the Plainview-Elgin Sanitary District wastewater treatment plant, in April 2023.
The flow of cream caused Plainview Milk to exceed the facility’s daily maximum discharge limits to the wastewater treatment plant. Discharge of total suspended solids reached 15 times the allowable limit; discharge of phosphorus reached three times, and carbonaceous biological oxygen demand was as much as 11 times the allowable level. The spill also overwhelmed the facility’s wastewater tank, causing 100 gallons of cream-laden wastewater to enter a city storm sewer and flow to a ditch southeast of Plainview. The company failed to immediately investigate and report these releases to the Minnesota Duty Officer and the MPCA as required in its permit.
In addition to paying the $20,000 civil penalty, Plainview Milk has completed a series of corrective actions including:
- Recovering the cream-laden water from the ditch.
- Reviewing and revising release reporting and response procedures.
- Submitting a report on how the facility will prevent future unauthorized releases.
- Evaluating and revising the facility’s automated alarm system.
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 considers 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.