The state’s fined a southeastern Iowa grain plant more than half-a-Million dollars for air-quality violations. Bob Brammer, spokesman in the Attorney General’s office explains the Roquette America plant in Keokuk cooks up all kinds of byproducts from Iowa farm products. He says they take corn, grind and heat it to make cornstarch, corn syrup, dextrose and other products. It’s not the corn that caused the problem, it was the industrial process of cooking it.

Brammer says they changed their way of heating the corn, from burning coal to using a blend of coal and “petroleum coke,” but didn’t report that to state and federal authorities, which is required, and they caused “significant deterioration of air quality.” The attorney general’s office is charging that the change put higher levels of the pollutant sulfur dioxide into the air.

The company agreed to settle the matter with the state by paying a civil penalty of 560-thousand dollars. In court papers, the company maintains it did not cause the higher pollution on purpose. They called it “inadvertent” violations, but he notes the Attorney General’s office, as well as the Department of Natural Resources, which monitors air quality in the state, did consider it an important action and that’s why they took action.

The agreement does not make the plant shut down, but it will have to get to work on plans for a new boiler that uses the best available air-quality control technology, and it must comply with air-pollution control rules.