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Cenex fined $500K for Malta chemical release

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) -- Cenex Harvest States Inc. has been fined $500,000 after pleading guilty to a criminal charge for not properly reporting the extent a chemical release during a fire in north-central Montana over three years ago.

District Judge Sam Haddon of Great Falls also sentenced CHS on Tuesday to make a $50,000 payment to the Phillips County Rural Fire Department as a community service.

Prosecutors argued a general manager from Cenex's Milk River Cooperative in Malta downplayed the risk of a November 2009 fire that burned large volumes of herbicides, including 2,4-D.

Hundreds of cattle were exposed to smoke from the fire and 14 calves died of a lung ailment. CHS paid the owners of the calves for the dead animals and purchased about 475 head of cattle that had been exposed to smoke.