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3M settles pollution lawsuit with state (UPDATE)

By Tony Anderson
Special to The Daily Reporter

A Prairie du Chien manufacturer must complete $200,000 worth of projects to reduce the carbon dioxide its facility produces as part of a settlement with the state.

In a civil lawsuit filed and settled Monday, the state Department of Justice alleged 3M Co.’s Prairie du Chien facility violated its air pollution permit. The state’s complaint alleged the company replaced a burner in 2006 without pulling the required Department of Natural Resources permit; on numerous occasions between 2004 and 2009, the facility failed to shut down a coiled web maker and resolve problems when meters indicated it was malfunctioning; and that 3M did not meet requirements for controlling emissions of volatile organic compounds in its belt making area.

Assistant Attorney General Cynthia Hirsch prosecuted the case. The coiled web maker has a system of signals designed to alert the company when the air pollution system is not working, she said. The company’s permit sets requirements for when the system should be shut down. 3M didn’t shut down the system.

Hirsch said the company reported it did not shut down the coiled web maker because the pollution control system was functioning. The meters, according to 3M, were malfunctioning.

A 3M representative could not immediately be reached for comment.

On Monday, Crawford County Circuit Court Judge James P. Czajkowski signed a judgment in which the company agreed to pay $150,000 in forfeitures and penalties within the next month. The company also agreed to complete two projects designed to improve environmental efficiency at the plant and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

“We filed the complaint and the stipulated judgment and order at the same time,” Hirsch said Tuesday. “The court agreed with our stipulation and signed the order yesterday.”

3M had signed the stipulation prior to its filing.

The first project, which must be completed by Dec. 31, involves converting two air compressors from being water-cooled to being air-cooled. According to the agreement, the conversion will reduce the amount of city water the facility uses by 6.3 million gallons per year.

Heated air from the compressor’s cooling system is expected to reduce the amount of natural gas used to heat the facility, cutting carbon-dioxide emissions by 92 tons annually.

The second project, which must be completed by June 30, 2011, involves the facility’s heating system. The company will replace three steam-heating air handlers with one gas-fired unit that is expected to be more energy efficient. The agreement indicates the new unit will have a 92 percent thermal efficiency, compared with the steam heating coils that are 65 percent efficient. The new unit’s energy efficiencies are expected to result in lower carbon-dioxide emissions.

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