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MPCA fines Gerdau $110,000 for regulatory violations

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has cited a St. Paul steel recycling facility for more than 30 environmental regulation violations relating to water quality, hazardous waste and air quality.

Gerdau Ameristeel, the Florida-based corporation cited this month, agreed to pay $110,000 in penalties and has corrected most violations.

Violations include failure to obtain proper permits for the company's two industrial wastewater ponds, failure to document to implement best management practices for stormwater control measures, failure to document regular inspections and preventative maintenance and improperly storing hazardous waste.

Corrections include applying for correct permit coverage, updating operation and maintenance plans, properly labeling hazardous waste containers, and implementing improved record keeping practices.

The penalty fee and corrections are part of a stipulation agreement Gerdau signed with the MPCA last week.

Stipulation agreements allow groups responsible for violations to take corrective action without acknowledging the violations occurred.

The agreement stems from a number of violations MPCA staff identified during several facility inspections in 2015 and 2016.

The agency met with Gerdau to discuss the MPCA allegations Nov. 10, 2016.

A statement from Gerdau said the company was "first made aware additional environmental controls were required during routine site inspections in 2015 and 2016."

"The company has since signed MPCA's Stipulation Agreement and agreed to pay $110,000 in penalties. In addition, the company has made waste, water and air protection improvements, updated operation and maintenance plans and applied for the reissuance of the rescinded (State Disposal System) Permit per MPCA's request," the statement continued.

Aaron Luckstein, supervisor of the MPCA wastewater program, is in charge of the agency's Gerdau case.

Most of the corrections, he said, have been completed.

"I will say they were proactive in taking the necessary actions," Luckstein said. "They didn't wait until this document was completed."

The site is no stranger to MPCA enforcement activities.

Gerdau purchased the facility, the former North Star Steel site, from Cargill, Inc. in 2004.

The number of MPCA citations has shrunk under new ownership, but Risikat Adesaogun, public information officer with the agency, said the site remains on the department's radar.

The agency documented a total of seven enforcement activities under Gerdau ownership: four related to air quality, which included a $3,500 fine, and three related to hazardous waste, including a $9,375 fine.

The company has been fined nearly $123,000 over the last decade, including the most recent stipulation agreement.

Enforcement actions under Cargill ownership totaled up to 13 hazardous waste enforcement actions, which included a $18,000 stipulation agreement, and one air quality letter of warning.

"It's a site we're familiar with as an agency despite the change in name, so they might be under more scrutiny than usual," Adesaogun said.