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BRATTLEBORO — The state of Vermont recently fined Commonwealth Dairy $25,000 for wastewater pretreatment discharge permit violations, but Brattleboro officials say the violations did not affect the town’s treatment plant on Riverside Drive.

According to information from the Agency of Natural Resources Department of Environmental Conservation, DEC personnel visited the yogurt plant in 2017 and 2018 and observed a number of violation, including improper operation and maintenance, and reporting and training inadequacies. Additional violations occurred in 2019 and 2020, according to the notice from the state.

“Commonwealth has a state permit with parameters for discharging wastewater to the Brattleboro treatment facility,” said Steve Barrett, director of the Brattleboro Department of Public Works. “They exceeded the discharge parameters of the permit, though the treatment facility was not affected by the violation.”

Commonwealth Dairy was founded in 2009 by partners Tom Moffitt and Benjamin Johnson, along with German dairy giant Ehrmann AG. Using milk from Vermont cows, Commonwealth packaged yogurt for third-party sale and also designed its own line through the Green Mountain Creamery, including a line of Greek yogurt and Yo Yummy pouches for kids.

In 2019, Commonwealth Dairy was purchased by Lactalis, the world’s biggest dairy company, located in France, which also bought Stonyfield Yogurt in 2017.

“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,” states a news release from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. “After being notified of the violations, Commonwealth Dairy, LLC agreed to resolve the matter and pay a penalty of $25,000 for the violations.”

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In addition to paying the fine, Commonwealth also agreed to retaining an engineer and wastewater consultant to evaluate the facility and provide a plan to DEC to bring the facility into compliance.

The facility’s permit limits the volume and quality of wastewater discharged to the Brattleboro collection system to protect the wastewater treatment facility and insure the discharge into the Connecticut River meets environmental standards.

“The violations did not affect our discharge parameters,” said Barrett. “Commonwealth has been working with the town and the state to adhere to the permit requirements.”

According to information from DEC, discharge permits are designed to ensure municipal wastewater treatment facilities can safely handle and treat wastewater, prevent interference with municipal operations, and prevent toxic pollutants from flowing into lakes, rivers, and streams.

For more information about DEC’s wastewater program, including information about wastewater discharge permits, visit https://dec.vermont.gov/watershed/wastewater/contacts.

Lactalis America did not respond to the Reformer’s request for a comment.

Bob Audette can be contacted at raudette@reformer.com.