Paperwork trail shows progress, permits potentially needed for AGP

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Farm Forum

A new soybean processing plant will be built near the Prairiewood subdivision on the northeast edge of Aberdeen, but neighbors do not seem worried about odors or emissions.

Neither Moccasin Creek Country Club manager Julie Lambert nor Prairiewood resident John Aman have heard concerns from patrons or neighbors. Additionally, no concerns have been fielded by Aberdeen Mayor Mike Levsen.

Ag Processing Inc., more commonly called AGP, plans to build the Aberdeen soybean plant. The closest equitable plant is South Dakota Soybean Processors in Volga.

“As far as odor and pollution, there’s not much coming off a soybean plant,” said Tom Kersting, CEO of the Volga plant.

The plant sits right along state Highway 14 in Volga, across from housing and commercial businesses.

Despite that, both Kersting and Randy Santema, Volga’s mayor, said there have been very few, if any, complaints from residents.

Santema said those passing through Volga might occasionally notice a smell, but those who live in town don’t seem to.

“It’s nothing that would affect your quality of life, nothing you can’t get away from,” he said. “We’re around it so much that we just don’t notice it any more.”

Potential carbon dioxide emissions, accumulating dust and what permits are needed will depend on factors such as what fuel AGP uses to heat its boiler, Kersting said. The Volga plant uses natural gas.

It also uses hexane, a flammable commercial solvent commonly used to extract oil from soybeans. The hexane solvent gets flashed off in the process, and there’s a slight odor from that, Kersting said.

Hexane is listed as a hazardous air pollutant by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA notes that short-term inhalation exposure to high levels of hexane can cause mild central nervous system problems, including dizziness, giddiness, slight nausea and headache. Long-term exposure can result in extremity numbness, blurred vision and fatigue, according to the EPA.

The agency notes that the levels must be high in order for them to affect one’s health, and that such exposure is most likely to occur in the workplace.

There have been not been any adverse health conditions reported to either Volga plant officials or the Volga City Council, according to Kersting and Santema.

Emissions like those caused by hexane are regulated by the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The only complaint concerning South Dakota Soybean Processors in DENR’s database was filed in 1997, two years after the plant opened. The complaint was regarding soybean hulls on a resident’s property. Kyrik Rombough, DENR air quality engineer manager, said that soybean plants have bag houses and filter systems to collect most of the hulls. Soybean hull pellets are generally considered nonhazardous by the EPA, although they can generate dust.

DENR permitting, regulations

On May 9, the Aberdeen City Board of Zoning Adjustment approved a permit for the storage fuel oil, diesel fuel, natural gas, methanol, sodium methylate and hexane at 4816 Eighth Ave. N.E., the site of AGP’s future plant.

Additional permitting required by the DENR will depend on the size of and scope of activities at the plant, as well as what processes it will use, said Kim Smith, DENR information specialist.

DENR has not received any paperwork or plans from AGP. Officials with the company seem to be holding tight on those as calls regarding its processes and permitting progress from the American News to Matt Caswell, AGP vice president member/corporate relations, were not returned. In the past, though, AGP has said that the permitting process could take up to 18 months.

“We can’t talk too much about it until we see something from them,” Smith said. “That will help us determine what kinds of permits they would need.”

According to a document created by DENR in August 2015, required permits for soybean extraction and processing plants can include the following:

• Water rights.

• Air quality.

• Surface water quality, including storm water permits for both construction and industrial activities.

• On-site wastewater systems.

• Storage of some chemicals, including hexane.

• Waste, including separate permits for solid waste and hazardous waste.

• Storage tanks.

• Drinking water.

Plans for wastewater systems and distribution might also need to be approved prior to construction. DENR recommends working with the local fire marshal’s office and county zoning officials to determine if any other requirements are needed.

In May, the Aberdeen City Council approved the annexation of 4.61 acres at 1314 County Road 19, making the land part of city limits.

Construction is not expected to begin on the facility until spring 2017. AGP plans to open in 2019.

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