Ethanol Plant Fined for Dumping Waste

Friday, January 29, 2016 @ 03:01 PM gHale

An Orleans County, NY, ethanol production plant operator is facing $87,000 in fines related to illegal disposal of industrial waste from its manufacturing operation.

Western New York Energy, which processes corn into biofuel, dumped wastewater that contained petroleum hydrocarbons, ethanol, trace amounts of ammonia and shards of burned corn on its property in the town of Shelby, just outside the village of Medina.

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The company should have treated the water generated in biannual cleaning of plant equipment as industrial waste and disposed of elsewhere, said officials at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

Hydro-Klean, an Iowa company that cleaned the tanks and dumped the wastewater on the ground at the rear of the plant, pleaded guilty in Shelby Town Court in August 2015 to unlawful disposal of industrial wastes and was fined $50,000, the DEC said.

After negotiation with the state Attorney General’s office, Western New York Energy agreed to pay an $87,000 fine and entered a guilty plea Jan. 14 in Shelby Town Court.

In a statement released Monday, company president and chief executive Michael Sawyer said primary responsibility for the improper waste disposal lay with Hydro-Klean. But Western New York Energy “acknowledges that it has responsibility for events that occur on its property,” Sawyer said.

“We are glad to see the matter resolved and appreciate the state’s cooperation in addressing this issue,” he said.

After members of the public alerted the DEC to the disposal in 2013, agency criminal investigators observed the activity to help make their case.

“Fortunately, independent testing confirmed that there was no environmental harm as a result of the contractor’s actions,” Sawyer said. DEC spokesman Benning DeLaMater confirmed there was no evidence the dumping caused lasting damage.

Operators at the plant, one of two commercial-scale ethanol producers in New York state, now have wastewater from cleaning operations hauled to a local wastewater treatment plant for processing.