Environment

American Crystal Sugar Company heavily fined for air quality violations

American Crystal Sugar factory
The American Crystal Sugar Company factory in Moorhead.
Dan Gunderson | MPR News

Moorhead-based American Crystal Sugar Company has been fined $350,000 for air quality violations at a factory in East Grand Forks.  

The violations occurred between 2020 and 2022 according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.    

The agency said American Crystal exceeded air quality emissions for three types of particulate matter. 

“They exceeded their permitted allowable rate of particulate matter by some pretty significant numbers,” said MPCA spokesperson Stephen Mikkelson.

“Those three pollutants were exceeded by anywhere from five percent to 110 percent of their allowable limit."

The company also exceeded hydrogen sulfide emissions and failed to properly operate monitoring equipment.

The company agreed to improve air quality monitoring operations.

“More timely updates to the operation and maintenance plan, training their staff on implementing that plan, more up to date record keeping and also identifying which parts of the operation or what pieces of pollution control equipment weren't operating as they were supposed to,” said Mikkelson.

American Crystal Sugar Company operates three sugar beet processing factories in northwestern Minnesota and two in eastern North Dakota.

In a statement, American Crystal Sugar said it has proactively addressed the violations, and made changes to prevent similar occurrences.

The $350,000 penalty also marks a first for the MPCA.

American Crystal Sugar
Bags of Crystal Sugar on a grocery store shelf in Fargo.
Ann Arbor Miller for MPR News

Under a state law passed last year, 40 percent of enforcement penalties of $250,000 or more must be given to community health boards.

“Since that statute went into effect, this is the first such case that the MPCA has completed, that has this size of a penalty amount,” said Mikkelson.

“So, it’s the first time that that money will be going to a health board.”

The Polk-Norman-Mahnomen Community Health Board will receive the funding in this case.   

Mikkelson said both the agency and the health board are working to determine how the funding can be used under the statute.

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