Meat processors fall afoul of environmental laws

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sewage treatment United states environmental protection agency

Tyson Foods and Michael Foods will pay out about $1m each for
falling afoul of environmentallaws.

The large payments and fines the two meat processing companies have to make, indicate thetoughness of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in crackdown on polluting companies. Over thepast ten years, environmental groups have been pressuring regulators to use the law to ensure foodproducers follow the law. Organic food waste is a major pollutant.

Tyson Foods got stung through its purchase of a subsidiary IBP in 2001. At the time of thepurchase the company was facing an environmental lawsuit filed by the state of Illinois against itsplant in Joslin.

As part of the final agreement, announced yesterday, Tyson has agreed to fund six environmentally beneficial projects with a combined value of$995,000. The company will also install additional odor-reducing technology at the plant and pay a $30,000 civil penalty.

"We're pleased this long-running legal matter is over and are moving forward with the implementation of additional environmental improvements at the plant,"​ said Kevin Igli, senior vice president and chief environmental, health and safety officer for Tyson. "Environmental stewardship is one of our core values and we strive to manage all of our plants responsibly, emphasizing pollution prevention, conservation and operational efficiency."

IBP took steps to reduce odor from the Joslin plant prior to the settlement, Tyson said. The company spent millions of dollars covering existing wastewater treatment lagoons, completing the project in 2001. Two wastewater basins were alsosubsequently covered. In addition, a manure storage area was relocated offsite and a new air scrubbing system was installed to reduce odor from the plant's by-product renderingoperation, Tyson said.

As part of the settlement Tyson will designate $100,000 on environmental projects at Rock Island County Schools, $50,000 for construction of the Quad City Botanical Center Children's Garden in Rock Island and $45,000 for environmental remediation work ata site in Moline.

In addition, $600,000 in environmental funding has been earmarked for installation of idling reduction technology on Tyson-leased heavyvehicles. Another $100,000 will be given to Illinois for environmental projects. All

The Joslin beef plant employs 2,400 people and produces fresh cuts of boxed beef for sale in theUS and internationally.

Meanwhile in a separate case filed by the federal government and the state of Nebraska, Michael Foodsagreed to pay a $1.05m penalty to resolve allegations that the company violated the Clean Water Act.Details of the settlement were announced yesterday.

The case was filed against company subsidiary M.G. Waldbaum Co. and involves a large egg processing facility andseven associated poultry farms near the Wakefield, Neb.

The suit alleged the company overloaded wastewater lagoons at the Wakefield's publicly owned treatment worksand was discharging pollutants from a large pile of poultry waste into a creek without a permit.

Officials also claimed the company was improperly dumping process sludge waste from its egg processing facility at two of itsother poultry farms rather than spreading on the ground in accordance with state standards.

As part of this settlement, Waldbaum has committed to comply with a schedule in its current permit for construction of a wastewater treatment plant to treat the effluent from its egg processing facility. Construction of the new plant will be completed in 2009 at an estimated cost of $16m.

"This settlement underscores the Justice Department's commitment to enforce vigorously the nation's laws that protect the public and the environment frompollution,"​ said Sue Ellen Wooldridge, an assistant attorney general with the federal justicedepartment.

Granta Nakayama, an assistant administrator with the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA),said the successful outcome of the case was due to the cooperation between federal and stateofficials.

"This settlement is a result of the EPA enforcement program's focus on significant environmental problems, such as illegal discharges into our watersystems and improper management of manure from concentrated animal feeding operations,"​Nakayama said.

As part of the settlement, Waldbaum has also agreed to apply for a wastewater permit for its Husker Pride poultry farmand to develop and implement manure management plans at its other six poultry farms.

The agreement will protect surface water quality with better treatment of egg processing effluent and improved poultry manuremanagement practices, the EPA stated in a press release.

The agency estimates that actions taken under the agreement will result in annual reductions of 60 pounds of phosphorus, 18,250 pounds ofbiochemical oxygen demand (BOD), 61,000 pounds of total suspended solids, and 41,600 pounds of ammonia.

Ammonia is a component of poultry manure. Excessive amounts of ammonia in wastewater can be harmful towildlife - particularly to fish and other aquatic organisms. Excessive amounts of phosphorous, BOD, andsuspended solids in wastewater harms waterways by depleting dissolved oxygen needed by aquatic life to live.

The city of Wakefield, which was also a defendant in the suit, has agreed to pay a civil penaltyof $20,000 for the permit violations - many due to overloading of its lagoons by effluent from Waldbaum's eggprocessing facility. The city agreed to comply with the Clean Water Act prohibit wastewater treatmentfrom Waldbaum, and conduct increased influent and effluent monitoring and reporting.

Michael Foods reported net sales of $308.9m in the three months to September 30, 2006.

Related topics Regulation