Cloquet ceiling tile plant penalized for adverse air quality impacts

Contact:  Anne Perry Moore, 218-302-6605

Increased pollution and an enforcement action resulted from nearly three dozen air quality permit violations at a northeastern Minnesota ceiling tile-making facility, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) announced today.

USG Interiors, LLC, manufactures acoustical ceiling tiles at its plant at 35 Arch Street, Cloquet, Minnesota. The tile-making process involves combining a variety of raw materials into a slurry that is dried, cut and coated. The process requires an air quality permit that limits nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter.  Impacts from these air pollutants on humans can include respiratory and cardiovascular illness; nitrous oxide is the main contributor to ground level ozone and can cause visibility issues.

Between July 2014 and October 2016, the company self-reported that it violated its air quality permits for emissions exceedances or missed equipment testing 32 times. As a result, USG agreed to pay a $59,500 penalty and completed three compliance actions, including submitting a compliance and testing plan that the MPCA approved, for future equipment performance testing.

The stipulation agreement is one tool that the MPCA uses to achieve compliance with environmental laws.  When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violation affected the environment, whether it was a first time or repeat violation and how promptly the violation was reported to appropriate authorities.  The agency also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.