Pork processor Tyson Fresh Meats has agreed to pay a $2,026,500 civil penalty to settle allegations that it violated terms of a 2002 consent decree and a federally-issued pollution discharge permit at its meat processing facility in Dakota City, Neb., the Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced.
In April 2002, Tyson Fresh Meats, known as IBP Inc., until May 2003, entered into a consent decree with the federal government and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality to bring wastewater discharges at its facility into compliance with state and federal law. Tyson discharges an average of five million gallons of treated effluent from its Dakota City facility into the Missouri River each day.
The 2002 consent decree required IBP to complete a supplemental environmental project, specifically a $2.9 million nitrification system that was intended to reduce the amount of ammonia in its wastewater discharges to the Missouri River.
The 2002 consent decree also provided that once the installation of the nitrification system was complete, the United States would begin to enforce certain limits of a new National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit relating to toxicity and ammonia levels in the facilities treated wastewater discharge.
According to a filing in US District Court in Omaha, the government alleges that from July 2003 through March 2004, Tyson failed to properly operate the nitrification system as required by the 2002 consent decree, and as a result, had numerous discharges of faecal coliform and nitrites in violation of its 2002 NPDES permit. Specifically, nitrites in the discharge caused high levels of toxicity to aquatic life in the Missouri River.
"This penalty serves as an example that we take violations of these agreements seriously and we will take appropriate steps to ensure that their provisions are followed," said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.
"We expect companies to live up to their settlement obligations, and when they don't, they can expect that EPA will take action to assure compliance," said William Rice, Acting Regional Administrator for EPA's Region 7.