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Bongards' Creameries in Perham issues 54 temporary layoffs

Sam Benshoof/FOCUS Bongards' Creameries in Perham has temporarily laid off 54 workers until the snow melts and the company is able to empty its wastewater pond.

Bongards' Creameries in Perham has temporarily laid off 54 workers due to the company's wastewater pond being full to capacity.

Because of the current snow cover after last week's blizzard, President Keith Grove said, the company is unable to empty the wastewater pond through the usual means of irrigation spraying.

Wastewater from the Bongards' facility consists of process wastewater, non-contacting cooling water at the facility and industrial storm water. The wastewater is routed to the facility's aerated lagoon system for treatment prior to land application by spray irrigation, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

"When you run a milk intake and cheese manufacturing plant," Grove said, "you make a lot of wastewater flow."

Grove said that Bongards' is currently attempting to truck wastewater off of the facility to lighten the load, but that is not an economic solution.

"We can't run the plant under these conditions," Grove said. "At that point you can't afford to have people sitting around doing nothing."

Grove said that it's not only Bongards' that has been affected by the late snow cover, but that other municipalities are also finding their wastewater facilities full.

Grove said that, depending on the weather, there could be more temporary layoffs ahead. He said that laid-off workers would be rehired, but could not speculate when that would be.

"It's all going to be weather dependent," he said. "It's kind of a tough situation."