August 28, 2014

Northeast Iowa cheese company agrees to civil penalty for E.P.A. reporting violation

An Iowa cheese manufacturer in the northeast corner of the state has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $33,800 for violating E.P.A. regulations. E.P.A. spoksman, Ben Washburn, says the settlement with Swiss Valley Farms Cooperative of Luana is over the company’s failure to report toxic chemicals at its plant.

“It is very important that the community is aware of any kind of potentially toxic chemicals in the area, and that is what this violation is about, not disclosing and letting everyone know that they do have these toxic chemicals there, at their facility,” Washburn says.

The violations were in 2009 for nitric acid and nitrate compounds, chemicals used in dairy plants to manufacture cheese and clean the equipment used in the manufacturing process. The chemicals pose a danger if they would be released from the plant and Washburn says that’s why E.P.A. regulations require companies that use certain amounts of the chemicals to reveal their presence.

“There are forms that they have to fill out annually and submit to the state,” Washburn explains. E.P.A. information shows the Swiss Valley Luana plant produced 187,000 pounds of nitric acid and 71,000 pounds of nitrate compounds that were not properly reported in 2009.

Washburn says the company now says it making the proper reports, as he says signing the consent agreement in this case certifies that the company is in compliance with the regulations at this time.

As part of the settlement, Swiss Valley Farms Cooperative also agreed to purchase emergency response equipment for the Luana fire department valued at $10,786.