Suzlon to pay big pollution penalty

suzlon sign higher res.jpg

(Photo courtesy of the Pipestone County Star)

The big manufacturing plant on the edge of Pipestone sits empty. Once a major employer in the southwest Minnesota community, there’s no indication the Suzlon company plans to reopen the site, which used to make blades for wind turbines.

Opened in late 2006, at its peak the plant employed about 500 people. It closed at the end of last year.

No one has heard from the company in months. The only sign that Suzlon is still connected with the community is a sign outside the shuttered plant, a few maintenance workers inside, and a recent filing in state district court in Pipestone.

The district court filing is leftover business from the days when Suzlon played a major role in the region’s economy. It’s the final legal page in a squabble between Suzlon and the state over pollution problems at the plant.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency received a tip that Suzlon was operating a messy plant. When agency investigators looked into the matter, they found the India-based company was sandblasting without proper permits, and improperly storing and disposing of hazardous waste.

Among the issues: the company was dumping damaged turbine blades in a landfill. The blades contained lead.

As part of the court settlement, Suzlon will pay the state a $490,000 penalty. It’s the second time the company paid up. In 2008 it was a $19,000 penalty for failing to get an air quality permit.

If Suzlon does decide to reopen the plant, it will have some more work to do on the pollution front. The company needs to apply for updated permits, write a storm water pollution prevention plan, and properly dispose of the lead.

Suzlon has not commented on the state penalties.

Pipestone leaders still hope the plant re-opens and the jobs come back. But so far, company offfcials have not given any indication they’re close to making that possibility come true.

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