Muscatine-based Grain Processing Corporation has been ordered to pay the state $1.5 million in a civil penalty, the largest ever paid in Iowa for violating environmental regulations. A release from the Iowa Attorney General’s office says the judge’s order includes an “unprecedented provision” requiring GPC to convert its boilers from coal-fired to natural gas-fired to cut air pollutant emissions.
The group “Clean Air Muscatine” pushed for the changes. The group’s president, Sandy Stanley, says they’ll be involved in monitoring GPC’s progress as the company reduces their emissions over the next several years. “The air quality is really poor, it causes a lot of lung conditions, asthma, poor breathing. Children can’t play outside a lot of times when the air is so thick with the haze and the pollutants,” Stanley says.
The company estimates the changes will cost between 15 to 17 million dollars, plus one million every year in operating costs, and four to 12 million dollars each year in increased fuel costs. But, Stanley says GPC should do more. “Our expert that looked at this decree felt some things were very routine, kind of off the shelf things that could be done in a year or two instead of four to six years out,”Stanley says.
Stanley says the pollution in Muscatine has plagued residents for years, contributing to high rates of lung diseases and cancer. Stanley says the pollution is most visibly concentrated on the South Side of Muscatine, where there are two schools and a playground. The plant processes grain into ethanol and various feed, industrial and food products.