Commonwealth Dairy founder eyeing Connecticut location

Quarts of yogurt exit Commonwealth Dairy’s filling machine at its Brattleboro plant.

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MONTPELIER — Commonwealth Dairy, LLC of Brattleboro was fined $25,000 for multiple wastewater pretreatment discharge permit violations by the Agency of Natural Resources Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the state announced Thursday.

Many Vermont commercial and industrial facilities, including those used in the food and beverage industry, generate wastewater that is high strength or contains substances that are not compatible with or cannot be fully managed by a municipal wastewater treatment facility alone, the Agency said in a press release. DEC issues these industrial facilities pretreatment permits that establish important water quality limits, operating and maintenance requirements, and monitoring and reporting requirements to ensure municipal wastewater treatment facilities can safely handle and treat the incoming wastewater, prevent interference with municipal operations, and prevent toxic pollutants from flowing into lakes, rivers, and streams.

Commonwealth operates a yogurt production facility which is permitted to discharge pretreated wastewater to the Brattleboro Wastewater Treatment Facility. The facility’s permit limits the volume and quality of wastewater discharged to the Brattleboro collection system to protect the wastewater treatment facility and receiving waters. Since late 2017, the facility has frequently exceeded permitted discharge limits and has on multiple occasions failed to properly monitor and sample the wastewater in accordance with their permit.

DEC personnel inspected the Commonwealth Dairy facility in 2017 and 2018. Additional violations observed included improper operation and maintenance, and reporting and training inadequacies. DEC sent the company a Notice of Alleged Violation in 2018 identifying the violations and providing specific directives to achieve compliance. Additional violations occurred in 2019 and 2020.

“Vermont’s 92 municipal wastewater treatment facilities safely process a tremendous amount of wastewater every year — more than 15 billion gallons,” said Peter Walke, DEC Commissioner. “Vermont businesses must do their part to protect the integrity of these shared wastewater systems. DEC is ready to provide technical assistance and support to ensure facilities meet their permit conditions and protect Vermont’s clean water resources. However, when a facility violates those conditions, DEC may pursue enforcement to ensure compliance and protect the resources valued by Vermonters.”

After being notified of the violations, Commonwealth Dairy, LLC agreed to resolve the matter and pay a penalty of $25,000 for the violations. This agreement was incorporated into a Final Judicial Order of the Vermont Superior Court, Environmental Division issued on April 14. The agreement and Judicial Order also require the company to retain a professional engineer and wastewater consultant to evaluate the facility and provide a plan to DEC to bring the facility into compliance.