Sugar processor to pay fine for odor problems and other environmental issues

Contact: Daniel Olson, 218-846-8108

American Crystal Sugar Company has agreed to pay a fine and take steps to prevent hydrogen sulfide emissions at facilities in East Grand Forks and Crookston, following an enforcement action by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

The enforcement action addresses violations of the company’s air permit with the MPCA, including exceeding its permitted hydrogen sulfide emission limits at facilities in East Grand Forks and Crookston. Monitoring data showed 280 occasions from 2013 to 2016 when the ambient air around the facilities exceeded the permitted limits for hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide produces a “rotten egg” odor and exposure, even at low concentrations, can cause burning eyes, coughing and shortness of breath.

The company faced MPCA enforcement actions in 2008 for hydrogen sulfide violations that occurred from 2005 to 2007. The company says it spent millions of dollars in improvements at its facilities to reduce hydrogen sulfide and associated odors in response to the 2008 enforcement actions. Since that time, the company says it has continued to make significant investments.

In a stipulation agreement signed with the MPCA in late October, the company agreed to take additional steps to identify and correct all sources that may be contributing to excess hydrogen sulfide emissions. The company will meet yearly with the MPCA to discuss the progress of these efforts. The company also agreed to pay a $135,000 fine.

Other air permit violations addressed in the stipulation agreement include emissions of fine particle pollution, failure to take corrective action when emission thresholds were exceeded, failure to use fabric filters to control emissions, and problems with reporting and documentation.

Earlier this year, the MPCA completed an enforcement action involving the Moorhead facility for violations that included exceeding permit limits for hydrogen sulfide and fine particle pollution and operating a pulp dryer without controlling emissions with a fabric filter. That action included an $8,700 fine.