According to a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) enforcement investigation, Green Plains Fairmont LLC violated its water quality permit by releasing wastewater and byproduct to the environment on numerous occasions between 2014 and 2022. The company also failed to adequately respond to the releases as required.

MPCA staff inspections determined the unauthorized releases of wastewater and byproduct to soil and onsite stormwater drainage ditches resulted from equipment failure and/or operator error. The company routinely failed to immediately report the releases to the Minnesota Duty Officer and the MPCA, sample the prohibited releases, and submit required release reports to MPCA.

In addition to paying the $20,000 civil penalty, Green Plains Fairmont LLC has completed a series of corrective actions including:

  • Detailing actions taken or to be taken to prevent prohibited releases resulting from equipment failure and operator error.
  • Identify an inspection and maintenance plan for equipment contributing to prohibited releases.
  • Submit a copy of its procedures that ensures prohibited releases are reported immediately upon discovery, sampled, and release reports are submitted to MPCA.

MPCA 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 resulting pollution can be harmful to people and the environment.

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