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Utica Energy Settles State Lawsuit Over Water Pollution Violations for $280,000 in Penalties and $200,000 in Connection Costs

 

UTICA - Utica Energy, LLC, which owns and operates an ethanol production facility in the Town of Utica, Winnebago County, has agreed to pay $280,000 in penalties, plus at least $200,000 to connect to the City of Oshkosh wastewater treatment system, to settle state claims under Wisconsin's water pollution laws.  The judgment resolves charges that Utica Energy failed to comply with state laws governing wastewater discharges and drinking water supplies. 

 

Utica Energy produces fuel grade ethanol at its Utica facility.  Wastewater from the production process is treated at the facility and either discharged directly to a tributary of Sawyer Creek, which is a tributary to the Fox River, or land applied in the Lake Butte des Mortes Watershed.   

 

The Department of Natural Resources issued Utica Energy a Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) Permit in 2008, which authorizes Utica Energy to discharge the wastewater in accordance with the effluent limitations, monitoring requirements and other conditions of the permit.  The complaint charges that Utica Energy violated the terms of its 2008 permit by failing to conduct wastewater sampling, exceeding effluent limits, failing timely to submit required plans, and failing to report incidents of noncompliance.   

 

According to the stipulation settling the lawsuit, Utica Energy will pay $280,000 in forfeitures, assessments and costs, for the past violations.  In addition, Utica Energy will pay at least $200,000 to connect its wastewater discharges to the City of Oshkosh wastewater treatment system.  Utica Energy will also pay stipulated forfeitures of $25-$1,000 for each day that its wastewater discharge exceeds permit limits, until it completes the connection with the city sewer system.  If Utica Energy does not connect to the city sewer system by September 2010, it shall promptly take all steps necessary to come into complete compliance with its current permit conditions. 

 

Utica Energy also operates a drinking water supply system at its Utica facility.  In 2004, the Department of Natural Resources issued Utica a Conditional High Capacity Well Approval to increase the pumping capacity of one well and to construct a second well.  The complaint charges Utica with constructing its high capacity well system by improperly placing the check valves and failing to install sample faucets.  Utica Energy has corrected both deficiencies. 

 

"Wisconsin law requires that industrial facilities manage their wastewater discharges and drinking water supplies by following their permits, so as to protect the public and the environment from harmful pollutants," said Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. "The Wisconsin Department of Justice will continue to work with the DNR to ensure that Wisconsin's citizens and natural resources are protected through compliance with the law." 

Assistant Attorney General JoAnne F. Kloppenburg prosecuted the case.  Winnebago County Circuit Court Judge Barbara Key approved the settlement on November 5, 2009.