The parent company of a 282,000-square-foot Modesto cereal plant that makes Post Grape-Nuts and Banana Nut Crunch will pay $635,000 for violations of the federal Clean Air Act, including failing to install required air pollution controls at the plant, which is set to close in a year.
The penalty is in addition to $1.4 million the company has spent on equipment necessary to reduce emissions.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Post Holdings Inc. and Ralcorp Holdings Inc. have agreed to pay the fines.
Federal investigators found that certain types of equipment at the plant, such as cereal coaters and dryers, were emitting volatile organic compounds without required pollution-reducing controls, and further, that the plant did not have all the required operating permits.
The additional $1.4 million was spent by the company in 2012 on the installation and operation of equipment that reduced VOCs from the plant’s operations line by 95 percent. The new settlement requires the plant to monitor emissions and provide quarterly reports to the EPA.
VOC emissions are considered a precursor to ozone and particulate pollution. The San Joaquin Valley violates the federal air quality standard for both ozone and particulate pollution and has some of the poorest air quality in the nation.
After making breakfast cereals for more than a generation, Post Foods will close its south Modesto plant and put at least 140 people out of work by September 2014. The closure is expected to save the company $14 million per year in manufacturing costs.
Post President Terence Block said in March that his company has “excess capacity” and needs to “increase efficiency.” So the company has decided to transfer the “production capabilities” of the Whitmore Avenue plant to Post’s other plants in Battle Creek, Mich., Jonesboro, Ark., and Niagara Falls, Ontario.
Besides the 140 Post employees who will lose their jobs, the plant’s closure is expected to affect assorted businesses that provide services such as maintenance and security patrols there. Suppliers also will be hurt.