Q: Truth be told, the CHS soybean refinery on Mankato’s west side is a blight and an eyesore. ... Who is monitoring stack emissions and light, noise and odor pollution? More needs to be done to quiet the industrial roar, especially during the cold-weather months.
A: The questioner had several other opinions about the processing facility. Suffice to say, he’s not a fan either of the oilseed processing factory or of city officials who allowed the facility to expand in the past. But as to his specific question ...
Air emissions are monitored and regulated by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. In a report issued in July, based on 2011 emissions, Mankato’s CHS facility was not in the top 50 facilities statewide for emissions of lead, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide or particulate matter.
The plant ranked 42nd in release of small particulate matter (less than 10 microns).
But in one category, the CHS plant was a big emitter, according to the PCA report. When it comes to volatile organic compounds, the plant just south of Sibley Park was No. 1 in the state.
Volatile organic compounds covers a wide variety of gases emitted by certain solids or liquids, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Some are naturally occurring. Most odors, for instance, are caused by volatile organic compounds.
Other VOCs are manmade, including the gases arising from paint, paint thinners, copy machines, markers and countless other products. A wide variety of health impacts are attributed to certain VOCs, but the focus of preventing the respiratory effects, nerve damage and other ailments tends to be on indoor air — where VOC levels are often several times higher than outdoor air — even outdoor air in industrial areas. When certain chemicals are used in homes, the VOC levels can be 1,000 times higher than outdoor air.