December 1, 2022

McKenzielee Blog

Wicked Clever House Experts

Minn-Dak Farmers sues pond cover contractor

2 min read

Minn-Dak on Dec. 16, 2021, in Fargo, North Dakota, filed its suit against Industrial & Environmental Concepts Inc., of Lakeville, Minnesota, just south of Minneapolis. Minn-Dak alleges breach of contract, breaches of warranty and negligence, and is seeking damages.

The co-op alleges IEC improperly installed a wastewater pond cover, leading to wind damage and liner leakage. IEC and its insurer paid to replace the cover, but they refused Minn-Dak’s demands to pay for repair of the liner, thereby “forcing” Minn-Dak to spent $1 million to do the repair itself.

IEC’s lawyer, Corey Quinton, of the Fisher Bren & Sheridan LLP firm in Fargo, did not immediately return a request for comment.

Leaking pond

Minn-Dak uses a water flume to move sugarbeets into the facility. The flume creates wastewater containing mud and “sugars” from the beets. The co-op pumps the water into on-site holding ponds. Solids settle to the bottom and then “water” is pumped into other ponds for further treatment. The co-op’s “Pond 3” covers 10.4 acres and holds 38 million gallons of this wastewater.

In July 2018, Minn-Dak discovered that Pond 3’s liner was leaking and needed to be replaced. The company decided to add an insulated cover to float on the surface. The cover would float on the water and would be welded to the liner to make a “gas-tight system for biogas collection.” This would mitigate odors.

On April 10, 2019, Minn-Dak contracted with IEC to install a high-density polyethylene liner and cover for a wastewater pond. Minn-Dak drained the pond and removed the sludge and liner.

IEC installed the new liner by Nov. 27, 2019. Minn-Dak started re-filling the pond, complying with state regulations. Because of the time of year, IEC didn’t immediately install the cover.

In the summer of 2020, IEC started installing the cover.

IEC’s crews worked from a floating barge. They installed panel-by-panel, with the crew “fusion-welding” panels on prior panels. IEC installed the cover from the eastern edge to the western edge.

On June 8, 2020, the IEC crew left the project with the cover extended one-fourth from east-to-west. By 6 a.m., June 9, 2020, a “strong but regionally typical” wind caught the western edge, lifted it up and blew it back to the eastern edge of the pond.

Minn-Dak’s attorneys, Jonathan Bye and Conor Smith, of the Ballard Spahr LLP firm in Minneapolis, allege that IEC owes them $1 million to repair the liner because they:

  • Installed the cover into the prevailing winds, rather than properly installing it with the prevailing winds.

  • Failed to use sand tubes to weigh down the leading edge.

  • Prematurely welded the sides of the cover to the liner as installation progressed, so that when winds lifted the cover, it pulled the liner up and tore it, leading to the leak.

The suit came just a week after Minn-Dak’s annual meeting, where the installation of the pond cover to reduce odor for the community was discussed as a positive move.