Environmental group: MPCA fined few permit violatorsby Stephanie Hemphill, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — An environmental group said Monday that the state does a poor job of enforcing water pollution laws.
Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy studied water permits for a five-year period, and found that two-thirds of industrial facilities and wastewater treatment plants violated their permits, but the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency only fined 11 percent of the violators.
MCEA's Paul Aasen said the record will surprise many Minnesotans.
"When it's a governmental entity that's charged with protecting public waters, there's an expectation from the public that they will do that," Aasen said.
The report found the worst violators were Cliffs-Erie at the closed Hoyt Lakes mine, and Soudan State Park.
The wastewater manager at MPCA, Wendy Turri, said the agency meets or exceeds federal guidelines. She said the staff prioritizes problems that are most likely to harm human health or the environment.
"Some cases when we see need to take action fast, we take action fast," Turri said. "Other cases when solutions to fixing the problems aren't that easy [and] the risk to human health and the environment are lower, it may be a slower process."
Turri says the MPCA uses many tools besides financial penalties to help facilities comply with their permits.