Cargill Penalized for Pollution at Iowa Biodiesel Plant

DES MOINES, Iowa, March 11, 2008 (ENS) - Water pollution, wastewater pretreatment, and solid waste violations at Cargill's biodiesel facility in Iowa Falls have netted the agricultural products giant a $100,000 civil penalty.

The court order, which was entered early Monday by Hardin County District Court Judge Carl Baker, resolves a lawsuit also filed Monday by Miller's office, but the company will still be penalized.

"Cargill has resolved the issues and is in compliance, but these were serious violations," Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said Monday.

Cargill's Iowa Falls location has produced biodiesel since May 2006. The company reports 37.5 million gallons of capacity at the plant.

The lawsuit alleged that Cargill's biodiesel production facility generates high-strength wastewater and sludge, which were discharged into the City of Iowa Falls' wastewater treatment facility under a pretreatment agreement with the city. But during several months in 2005, 2006, and 2007, Cargill exceeded its pretreatment effluent limitations, the state said.

Iowa Falls wastewater treatment facility (Photo courtesy City of Iowa Falls)

On June 12, 2006, the city notified Cargill that no further wastewater would be accepted.

After the City of Iowa Falls refused further wastewater, Cargill hired Mort's, Inc., of Latimer, to haul away and land-apply the sludge waste. Mort's hauled and land-applied 135,000 gallons of Cargill's sludge at two different pasture sites from June 14 through July 9, 2006.

The lawsuit alleges that neither Mort's nor Cargill complied with requirements governing land application of sludge, such as testing the sludge to determine appropriate application rates, and injecting or incorporating the sludge within 48 hours of application.

On July 9, 2006, the suit alleges, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, DNR, received a complaint by golfers on the Meadow Hills Golf Course, located east of the City of Iowa Falls, of dead fish and a milky white color in School Creek.

The agency investigated and traced the wastes to one of the land application sites used by Mort's located upstream from the golf course. The suit alleged the discharge "created an acutely toxic environment that resulted in the death of at least 582 fish."

Cargill immediately discontinued the land application of its sludge wastes by Mort's and instead Cargill began hauling the wastes to the Wastewater Reclamation Facility in Des Moines.

Cargill now is discharging wastewater to the Iowa Falls treatment system again and is in compliance with pretreatment limitations in its agreement with the city.

In addition to the $100,000 civil penalty, the order prohibits future violations at any of the five Iowa facilities in Cargill's Grain and Oilseed Supply Chain North America Business Unit, located in Iowa Falls, Sioux City, Des Moines, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The state lawsuit also names Mort's, Inc., of Latimer as a defendant, but allegations against Mort's were not resolved by the consent order, judgment and decree entered in court today. That lawsuit is still pending.

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