Iowa corn processor sued over air pollution

Lawsuit claims corn milling plant spews harmful chemicals, company too slow in making changes

Iowa corn processor Grain Processing Corp. is being sued by 11 residents of Muscatine, Iowa for air pollution. The class-action lawsuit claims, on behalf of 17,000 residents who live within three miles of the company’s corn milling plant, that the plant spews harmful chemicals and particulate matter for miles as the wind blows, blanketing homes and cars with soot and causing metals in everything from swing sets to siding and air conditioning systems to corrode.

Grain Processing announced in 2011 plans to spend $95 million building a grain dryer and upgrading its boilers to reduce emissions by 2015, predicting that “smoke, odor and haze issues that have concerned the Muscatine community will be nearly eliminated.” But the plaintiffs say 2015 is too far away.

“We think they can use existing technologies to make world-class products and pay good wages to workers without polluting the atmosphere and harming people,” said Jim Larew, one of the lawyers who is representing local residents. In March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice of violation alleging the Grain Processing repeatedly violated the limits on the thickness of discharges at its smoke stacks and committed other violations.