MPCA: Two companies pay penalties for industrial wastewater violations near Mentor

Times Report
Crookston Times

    Northstar Materials, Inc., doing business as Knife River Materials, has paid a $17,525 civil penalty to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), and Wm Scepaniak, Inc, an aggregate mining company based in Holdingford, Minnesota, has paid an $11,030 civil penalty to the MPCA.

    According to a report from the MPCA, both penalties are the result of industrial wastewater violations at a nonmetallic aggregate mining facility near Mentor, Minn. The Bemidji-based Knife River Materials also submitted a plan for meeting its permit requirements, including instituting best management practices, installing floating silt curtains and earthen berms in its mine pit, and adding settling basins.

    Regarding the Knife River case, an MPCA staff inspection confirmed that sediment-laden mine pit water had discharged into Judicial Ditch 64, and then into nearby Lower Badger Creek. For 18 days, the company discharged dredged mine pit water to surface water — which is not permitted — and then installed berms to stop the discharge. The company’s discharges also exceeded permitted limits and caused nuisance conditions in surface waters. The company did not report the problems to the Minnesota State Duty Officer or the MPCA as required, and failed to recover the sediment that had left the site, the MPCA states.

    The company was required to stop discharging dredged mine pit water directly to surface water at all of its sites. Also, the company had to submit a procedure for how to report and respond to discharges that exceed permit limits.

    In regard to the Wm Scepaniak case involving the same Judicial Ditch 64 near Mentor, an MPCA staff inspection at the facility confirmed that untreated, sediment-laden mine pit water had discharged into Judicial Ditch 64, and then into nearby Lower Badger Creek. The company did not report the discharge to the Minnesota State Duty Officer or the MPCA as required, failed to recover the sediment that had left the site, and had been operating without a required permit.

    In addition to paying the civil penalty, the MPCA reports that Wm Scepaniak, Inc. was required to cease operations until it obtained a permit, and submitted and implemented a best management practices plan to prevent future discharges.

    The MPCA states that its 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 agency states, the resulting pollution can be harmful to people and the environment.

    When calculating penalties, the MPCA states that it takes into account how seriously the violations affected or could have affected the environment, whether they were first-time or repeat violations, and how promptly the violations were reported to authorities. The agency also attempts to recover the economic benefit the company gained by failing to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.