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Western Sugar Cooperative, of Denver, Colo., has agreed to pay a $56,736 civil penalty, and will spend an additional $350,000 on plant upgrades to cut pollution and save water and energy, to settle allegations that its sugar beet processing facility in Scottsbluff, Neb., had excessively high discharges of fecal coliform bacteria in wastewater.
Western Sugar’s facility at 2100 East Overland Drive in Scottsbluff allegedly violated the federal Clean Water Act on at least 14 occasions between December 2007 and January 2010, according to an administrative consent agreement and final order filed in Kansas City, Kan.
The plant’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit allowed it to discharge a daily maximum limit of 400 colony forming units (CFUs) of fecal coliform per 100 milliliters (mL) of water. However, an EPA inspection of records showed that the Scottsbluff facility reported excessive discharges ranging from 485 to 20,000 CFUs per 100 mL.
Discharged water from the plant flows directly into the North Platte River, which has been officially listed by the State of Nebraska as being impaired by fecal coliform bacteria.
The presence of fecal coliform bacteria in water indicates it may be contaminated with human or animal wastes. Microbes in such wastes can cause stream impairments, as well as short-term health effects such as diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, and more serious symptoms.
In addition to paying a $56,736 civil penalty to the United States, Western Sugar will undertake a supplemental environmental project through which it will spend at least $350,000 to install a non-contact water condenser system at the Scottsbluff plant. The improvements will result in savings on energy and water use, and reductions of pollutant discharges from the facility.
By agreeing to the settlement, Western Sugar has certified that it is now in compliance with the Clean Water Act.
The consent agreement is subject to a 30-day public comment period before it becomes final.