The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Citizens' Board voted unanimously yesterday to pull the permit of Excel Dairy, Thief River Falls, Minn., according to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It is the first time MPCA has taken such an action against a dairy under its jurisdiction.
Excel Dairy has had numerous odor violations over the past several years, though owners contend the original problem began when MPCA ordered a lagoon emptied in summer to check for leaks in the pit's clay liner. None were found, but exposing the sludge at the bottom of the pit to air caused the first major odor incident. Numerous incidents followed. The 1,545-cow dairy has since been depopulated.
Last year, MPCA revoked the operating permit but then re-instated it immediately if Excel met certain clean-up and operating criteria. Excel owners have challenged the legitimacy of that temporary permit in court, and it is still unresolved.
In addition, yesterday's MPCA Board action was an interim order. Excel Dairy owners have filed a request for a contested case hearing on the interim order. As such, an Administrative Law Judge will hold another hearing and then make a recommendation to the MPCA for a final decision on the case. That process could take three to four months. Even then, if the case is decided against Excel Dairy, owners still have the right to appeal the decision in court. An appeal could take another year.