Muscatine company moves to improve air quality

Grain Processing Corp., a Muscatine-based firm that has not done much to help boost Eastern Iowa’s air quality, announced yesterday that it was going to change it’s tune.

They have pledged $100 million dollars over the next four years to improve air quality and reduce emissions.

The Muscatine Journal reports:

Grain Processing Corp. announced Tuesday it will spend $100 million over the next four years to substantially clear Muscatine’s air of sulfur dioxide and small particle emissions.

The company will build a $75 million, state-of-the-art dryer at the plant site along the Mississippi River and will spend $20 million to upgrade environmental control systems for its boilers.

The remaining $5 million will be spent on programs that further reduce the company’s carbon footprint in Muscatine.

“We like the smell of our own cooking, but we need to recognize the fact that not everyone does,” said Gage Kent, CEO and chairman of the board of Muscatine Foods Corp., GPC’s parent. “This is going to make us a little less noticeable.”

A report from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources released in November 2010 showed that Muscatine exceeded federal health standards for sulfur dioxide (SO2) and particulate matter (PM 2.5) nearly 30 times last year.

Additionally, the DNR said, Muscatine has the highest average pollution level for PM 2.5 in the state.

In December 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched an investigation into the company’s practices and executed a search warrant at GPC.

Last month, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission referred three air-quality violations and one wastewater violation committed by GPC to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office.

GPC held a tour and sustainability conference for local and state elected officials around Tuesday’s announcement. More than 20 people attended, including senior company officials and the press.

“To me, this is like Christmas morning,” said Mick Durham, GPC’s director of environmental services and a former air quality specialist with the Iowa DNR.

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