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Fish kill from wastewater is part of $1.5M pollution fine for MN beet group

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A Minnesota sugar beet cooperative that discharged wastewater into a creek – leading to a big fish kill – will pay $1.5 million for that incident, and other environmental violations.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reached a settlement with the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative, they announced in a press release.

The site was linked to excessive emissions of hydrogen sulfide, which is a poisonous, potentially-explosive chemical, as well as wastewater discharges that killed fish in neighboring Beaver Creek in 2013.

The cooperative said it will correct the violations at its processing plant in southwestern Minnesota, near Renville. The agreement requires the co-op to improve their monitoring and sampling and pay a $1 million dollar penalty, plus an additional $49,000 for the Beaver Creek fish kill.

In a separate agreement with the MPCA, the co-op will have to take additional steps to prevent hydrogen sulfide air emissions, and pay a nearly $500,000 penalty. That's almost twice as much as the total fines issued by the MPCA in all of 2015, which came in at $225,258.

By 2017, if violations continue, there could be additional penalties.

The cooperative was found in 1974 and has more than 500 shareholders that produce about 3 million tons of sugar beets annually, raised on more than 100,000 acres in central Minnesota.

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