A faltering meatpacker in Buffalo Lake is blaming drinking water regulations for his shutdown. But the town's mayor says clean water is readily available for the plant to use.
The owner of North Star Beef told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he was closing because he couldn't afford to fix the company's private well, which has almost twice the arsenic allowed by federal standards.
Buffalo Lake Mayor Joyce Nyhus says the city's municipal water system is taking the final steps to eliminate toxic arsenic, and has offered to sell water to North Star Beef in the past. She says the company never responded.
Nyhus says the company has other problems as well. She says it owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes and sewage fees, and recently paid a $40,000 state fine for dumping its wastewater in a road ditch.
Nyhus says North Star will have to pay its bills before it can buy water from the city.
"We just have ongoing issues. And while the city does value all businesses, locally, we would really appreciate it if the beef plant started playing by the rules to which we're all held," said Nyhus.
Company officials could not be reached for comment. North Star Beef employs more than 200 people in the town of fewer than 800.
MPR News has also learned that a handful of farmers in North Dakota and Canada are suing North Star over a startup investment. The USDA said last year the company was stiffing cattle suppliers.