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Ethanol plant plans to discharge water into Des Moines river – Local officials seeking additional information

By Staff | Dec 7, 2007

ESTHERVILLE–Local government officials and sportsmen are taking a wait-and-see approach to Superior Ethanol’s proposal to discharge water from the ethanol plant on the west side of Superior into the Des Moines River.

The discharge would be just downstream from the County Road A-17 canoe access, the northernmost canoe/kayak landing on the west fork of the Upper Des Moines.

The discharge would not include process water. Rather, the non-process wastewater discharge would consist of cooling tower blowdown, reverse osmosis reject water and water softener backwash. The greatest possible danger would be excess salt and heating of water. There would be no danger to humans but only riparian aquatic life, most notably walleyes.

According to Wendy Hieb, permit writer for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, anyone who objects to the proposal has until Jan. 14, 2008, to contact the DNR. That’s the envelope of the 45-day waiting period that began Nov. 30. Objections may be written or FAXed to Hieb at: Wendy Hieb, NPDES Permit Writer, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Wallace Building, 502 East Ninth St., Des Moines, IA 50319-0034, FAX 515-281-8895.

Calls for information may be made to Hieb at 515-281-7804 or E-mail “mailto:wendy.hieb@dnr.iowa.gov”>wendy.hieb@dnr.iowa.gov

“These are no pollutants in any way that harm human health,” Hieb said, noting that only aquatic life could be affected. She said the main reason for going to the Upper Des Moines was the larger flowage.

The permit limits any effluent temperatures to no more than 7.2 degrees over the river temperature. The warmest that discharge water could be is 91.4 degrees.

According to the permit application, items limited in addition to temperature are pH, total suspended solids, total dissolved solids, dissolved oxygen, chemical oxygen demand, iron, sulfate, and chlorine.

Hieb said the DNR Spencer field office would handle any investigation or enforcement should there be a problem.

With the discharge near the northernmost landing of the Emmet County Water Trails Association system, ECWTA President Bill Moreau said that water above and below the discharge site will be monitored for effluents.

I would assume the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has done its due diligence” in considering the permit application, Moreau said.

Moreau is not taking an immediate position against the permit application though.

The volume of flow might actually be a positive” in creating a greater water flow. During dry weather, a maximum discharge during dry weather will be 497,500 gallons a day while the discharge during wet weather will be 567,400 gallons a day.

Moreau said he wanted to study the proposal before weighing in with a final opinion.

We may very well find it has no effect,” he said.

Still, Moreau does have some questions about the permit application.

I do wish they would have been more forthcoming in letting us know,” he said.

As a point of comparison, Moreau said the ECWTA had to run a gauntlet of paperwork with the Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Estherville before it could influence the shoreline of the Upper Des Moines for the water trail.

He also offered a silver lining for Superior Ethanol.

Perhaps this will be an opportunity for the owners of the ethanol plant to help develop the Upper Des Moines as a resource.

Steve Weisman, chair of Emmet County Conservation Board which manages the A-17 canoe landing site property, said the discharge site will be down from the canoe landing.

Our concern is we just want to make sure that it’s going to be OK environmentally,” Weisman said. “We would like to see some studies showing this stuff is okay.

Weisman questioned whether there would really be time for the board to study the issue adequately to make a meaningful response by Jan. 14.

We don’t have much of an opportunity if they’re already at the county land,” Weisman said.

City of Estherville Administrator Steve Woodley said the city was also taking a wait-and-see approach as more information is forthcoming.

We just want to get informed about it,” Woodley said.

Contact Michael Tidemann at (712) 362-2622 or mtidemann@esthervilledailynews.com and visit our photo sharing Web site at cu.esthervilledailynews.com