Federal sentence delivered in Tyson feed mill leak case

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/neenawat
© GettyImages/neenawat
Tyson Poultry faces a $2m criminal fine for violations of the Clean Water Act from a US federal court stemming from the leak of a feed additive that led to the deaths of numerous fish.

The US Department of Justice announced the sentence​ earlier this week. Tyson Poultry Inc., a subsidiary of Tyson Food Inc., was sentenced in federal court in Springfield, Missouri.

The company resolved the federal concerns about the environmental incident by taking responsibility for the event in September of 2017, a spokesperson told us.

Previously, Tyson had reached a civil settlement in 2015 with the state of Missouri, said​ ​the company.

Sentence details and response

In addition to the criminal fine, the company is set to serve two years of probation and will have to pay an additional $500,000 to remedy the harm done when the regulatory act was violated, said the Justice Department. 

The agreement reached includes that Tyson will retain an independent and third-party auditor to check environmental compliance at Tyson Poultry facilities, conduct environmental training at all feed mills, rendering plants, poultry processing facilities and waste water treatment plants and implement new procedures and policies aimed at addressing the events that led to the feed ingredient discharge. 

“Today’s sentence not only remedies the harm Tyson Poultry caused locally, but puts safeguards in place to prevent similar occurrences at Tyson Poultry facilities across the country​,” said Timothy Garrison, US attorney for the Western District of Missouri. “Tyson’s $2.5m fine and restitution payment reflects the seriousness of this offense and our commitment to protect Missouri’s natural resources.”

The sentence is intended to keep the company accountable for its behavior and to improve compliance with law in the future, said Susan Bodine, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This case exemplifies EPA’s commitment to protect clean water by pursuing the most egregious violations,” ​she added. 

Tyson said that it has taken responsibility for two misdemeanor violations of the Clean Water Act.

“We deeply regret the mistake that was made and have taken corrective action to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” ​a spokesperson said. “We’re committed to doing better all areas of our business, especially when it comes to protecting the environment.”

The company has since had training for all environmental managers in its poultry operations, he added. It also has improved environmental policies and related procedures in an attempt to prevent future mistakes.

Incident details

In 2014, the Arkansas-based poultry company had a tank storing a liquid feed ingredient develop a leak, reported the Justice Department. The spilled product, which was a strong acid, was reportedly transferred to the company’s facility in Monett and discharged into the sewers.

Reportedly, when the feed ingredient reached the Monett’s municipal wastewater treatment facility it killed the bacteria used in the ammonia reduction process, the Justice Department said. That interaction led to an increase in the amount of ammonia released into Clear Creek and the deaths of about 108,000 fish.

The poultry company said in September that it regretted the mistake and had taken steps to ensure it would not be repeated.

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