Sugar beet processing plant in Renville County seeks wastewater permit variance

Contact: Forrest Peterson, 320-979-1776

The Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative (SMBSC) has applied to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) for seasonal variances from several wastewater treatment standards at its beet processing plant east of Renville. A variance temporarily modifies the conditions of a facility’s permit, when certain factors make it infeasible for the facility to meet the permit requirements.

SMBSC treats wastewater from its processing plant, and discharges the treated water into Renville County ditches 37 and 45. Its MPCA permit puts limits on what substances can be discharged in the treated water. The MPCA first granted permit variances to the company in 2004 when SMBSC found that low water levels in the ditches at certain times of the year meant that the company’s wastewater discharge had a greater impact on water quality.

The permit variances address bi-carbonate, hardness, total dissolved salts, and specific conductance in the water. The cost to meet the applicable water quality standards in low-flow conditions is not yet technically or economically practicable for SMBSC.

The permit variances still require SMBSC to identify and take advantage of any opportunities to meet the permit requirements. Under the previous variances, the cooperative began an extensive program to reduce the concentrations of dissolved minerals in its discharge.

The proposed variances don’t affect water requirements related to human health or aquatic life; they are related to the standards for irrigation and industrial use. Under the proposed variance, SMBSC would continue to monitor stream water quality for possible impacts from the discharge; granting the variance would not result in environmental harm.

The MPCA is requesting public comments on the variance requests. Visit the MPCA public notices web page, and scroll to the SMBSC public notice posted on Aug. 18 to learn more. The MPCA has also scheduled an informational meeting via WebEx at 4 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. The public notice has details on how to access the WebEx meeting.

Send written comments to or request information from Brandon Smith (651-757-2740), Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 520 Lafayette Rd. N., St. Paul, MN 55155 by 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. Comments must state your interest in the variance request, the action you wish the MPCA to take including specific references, and specific reasons supporting your position.