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Perham, KLN reach surcharge agreement

Company will pay $70K penalty; wastewater surcharges waived in lieu of pretreatment upgrades

The city of Perham and KLN Family Brands have reached an agreement on wastewater surcharges, with the city waiving the charges in lieu of improvements KLN has made to its pretreatment process.

As part of the agreement, KLN will pay a penalty of $70,000. This will reimburse the city for the full cost of a fine levied by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency last November.

In addition, KLN will install wastewater flow meters and samplers at all three of its production facilities, to better monitor its outgoing effluent.

KLN, the parent company of Barrel O’ Fun Snack Foods, Tuffy’s Pet Foods and Kenny’s Candy, repeatedly exceeded its wastewater load limits between 2011 and 2013, sending more effluent waste to the city’s wastewater treatment facility than was permitted.

In those three years, the company exceeded its limits all four quarters of each year, resulting in surcharges of anywhere from about $23,000 to $159,000 per quarter.

By the end of 2013, the surcharges had accumulated to a total of $858,424.

In a written agreement between the company and the city, given final approval by city councilors at a meeting on Monday, the full $858,424 was abated in lieu of some expensive improvements KLN has made to help ensure it stays within permit limits in the future.

According to the agreement, KLN has spent about $858,300 on upgrades to its pretreatment system at Barrel O’ Fun Snack Foods over the past two years. These upgrades are expected to help correct the problem in the future, especially when coupled with the increased load limits now permitted at the city’s newly expanded wastewater treatment facility.

Since February 2014, KLN’s wastewater flows have been within the permitted limit.

The problem stems back prior to April 2012, when the MPCA started receiving complaints of strong seasonal odors coming from the wastewater treatment facility. Odors were a persistent problem, reoccurring with every spring thaw.

In its investigation, the MPCA found that the air at the treatment facility often exceeded the state standard for acceptable levels of hydrogen sulfide. The MPCA slapped Perham with the $70,000 fine, and also told the city it had to start penalizing industrial facilities with surcharges when they exceeded their effluent limits.

The major expansion project at the wastewater treatment facility is now nearly complete; as a result, odor has been far less of an issue. The newly expanded facility is expected to meet the city’s needs for the next 20 years.

Before that project began, however, the facility was outdated and often overloaded – too small to handle the growing community’s needs. KLN, Perham’s largest industrial user, experienced major and unforeseen growth just as the facility was beginning to max out, and the company’s overages contributed to odor problems.

Kevin Keil, general manager at Barrel O’ Fun, spoke to councilors at the Monday meeting. He said the company’s original user agreement with the city was signed in the early 1990s, and didn’t take into account the rapid growth that Barrel O’ Fun ended up experiencing in later years.

“We grew faster than we anticipated. I don’t want people thinking that we were doing things and didn’t know what we were doing,” he said. “We were stuck with a permit at the level we were at because the city’s permit was stuck at that level, until it got this expansion.”

Industries in town were unable to increase their permit levels until the expansion project at the treatment facility was complete – and that project took longer than was originally anticipated.

Keil said KLN has been doing what it can to improve the situation, and he believes Barrel O’ Fun should be able to meet its new permit levels now and in the future, thanks to increased pretreatment efforts within the company and the finished expansion project at the Perham facility.

Perham’s Public Works Director, Merle Meece, said KLN has been cooperative with the city throughout the process.

“They’ve been doing everything we’ve asked,” he said.


Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Detroit Lakes Tribune in November 2017 after several years of writing and editing at the Perham Focus. She lives in rural Frazee with her husband, Dan, their young son and daughter, and their yellow Lab.

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