Tyson fined for environmental violations

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Mar 7, 2005
by WLJ
Tyson Foods Inc. Springdale, AK, will pay an $18,400 fine to settle several environmental violations that occurred last year at its Temperanceville, VA, poultry processing plant, according to the Virginian-Pilot (Hampton Roads, VA) newspaper. The newspaper said processor will also upgrade the processing plant.
The State Water Control Board, which next meets on March 15 in Richmond, must approve the settlement. The board can alter the terms but usually adopts what state regulators have negotiated with violators.
According to a proposed settlement with Virginia regulators, problems surfaced at the Accomack County complex last May, when an inspector from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality saw wastewater spilling from an earthen holding pond into a local stream. Processing plant wastes were seeping onto the ground from a malfunctioning pump station nearby, according to case records.
The newspaper said the plant reported another wastewater spill two months later about the same time regulators were noticing high levels of copper, a toxic material, in Tyson discharges. Tyson operates its own sewage system at the plant. Under a state permit, the system releases thousands of gallons of treated wastewater per day into Sandy Bottom Branch, a marshy tributary of the Pocomoke Sound and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.
Sandy Bottom is classified as impaired by the state environment department, meaning it does not meet clean-water standards in this case because of too much copper and phosphorus.
State officials said Tyson has maintained a strong environmental record during its years in Temperanceville. But for its recent problems, the company received four violation notices in June, July, September, and November 2004—and the $18,400 fine.
In letters from Tyson officials, the newspaper said, the company blamed a combination of bad weather, bad timing, poor housekeeping and tighter state regulations for most of the troubles. Heavy rains in April and May last year overwhelmed the holding pond, which accepts wastewater from the 35-acre processing plant complex. This, combined with some pumping outages and sediment buildup in the pond, largely caused the overflows in May and July, company officials said.
In response to the incidents:
• The earthen berm has been raised and thickened by 113 percent to prevent future overflows.
• Although the copper concentrations exceeded state limits, the company said they should not be considered harmful or toxic.
• Tyson spent $75,000 last year on a chemical additive to neutralize copper—which it said worked most of the time.
• The company is studying continued high measures of copper in its discharges, and may ask the state to revise its stricter copper limits, first imposed in 2000. — WLJ