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Perham dairy pays fine, takes steps to settle wastewater pollution issues

Bongards' Creameries in Perham has paid a $79,069 penalty to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and taken corrective actions following an investigation into a complaint related to spray-irrigation of facility wastewater in 2011.

In March 2011, an inspection by MPCA staff substantiated a complaint the facility was spray-irrigating wastewater at sites covered with snow in violation of its permit. The inspection also found levels of wastewater within the facility's wastewater lagoons that were excessive -- near the top of the lagoon dikes.

During subsequent visits to the facility and meetings with facility staff, the MPCA learned wastewater from three different sources had been discharged with cooling water from the facility to Perham's storm sewer system. The facility's permit allows cooling water to be discharged to the storm sewer, but not the other three types.

In addition to paying the fine, the company has completed several corrective actions to prevent excessive buildup of wastewater in its treatment ponds and ensure that all sources of wastewater from the facility are treated according to permit requirements.

When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violation affected the environment, whether it is a first-time or repeat violation, and how promptly the violation was reported to appropriate authorities. It also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.