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CVEC ethanol plant hit with penalties

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Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co. will pay a penalty consisting of $70,000 in cash and a Supplemental Environmental Project costing at least $50,000 to resolve alleged violations of the company's air quality permit at its ethanol production facility in Benson, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency reported.

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The violations, occurring in 2008 and 2009, centered on the company's operation of a biomass gasification unit that went online in the spring of 2008. The unit represented an advanced technology for the ethanol industry, in which wood products are heated to produce gas to fuel the facility's boilers.

There were significant problems with burning wood contaminated with lead and arsenic, most likely from wood that had been painted or treated with preservatives. The company did not knowingly burn contaminated wood, but the MPCA alleged in the agreement that Chippewa Valley Ethanol did not take proper precautions to ensure the wood supply was uncontaminated.

The company also failed to meet emission limits during stack performance tests for the waste heat boiler and a filter receiver, did not conduct required performance testing on other parts of its processes, and did not properly calculate and record total emissions as required during rolling 12-month periods.

The result of these alleged violations was that the facility exceeded the requirements of its air quality permit in 2008 and 2009.

To resolve the violations, CVEC paid a civil penalty of $70,000 in cash, and will spend up to $50,000 to implement one or more Supplementary Environmental Projects (SEPs). SEPs are a common component of environmental penalties, and may include environmental improvements to the facility or other projects to benefit the environment. CVEC must submit proposals by mid-May for the project(s) it will implement to satisfy the SEP requirement. Projects must be approved by the MPCA.

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