Beef producer JBS Souderton to split 2M payment between feds, state for creek pollution

Publication Date 06/17/2010
Source: Philadelphia Daily News (PA)

A beef-processing plant reached a settlement yesterday with the U.S. Attorney’s Office over its six-year history of pollution violations.

JBS Souderton violated the Clean Water Act and the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law by releasing animal waste, E. coli, ammonia, oil and grease into Skippack Creek in Montgomery County, according to authorities.

The company has agreed to pay $1.9 million in civil penalties, divided between the federal government and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The company also agreed to pay $100,000 in civil damages to the state’s Fish and Boat Commission.

JBS Souderton processes 180 million pounds of boxed beef and 117 million pounds of ground beef each year. Wastewater from the plant is conveyed to an on-site water-treatment plant, where it is supposed to be treated and then discharged into the creek, according to its permit.

However, mishaps along the way allowed for excessive contaminants to be discharged.

“Our waterways should not become a casualty of business decisions,” U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said at a news conference yesterday.

The creek, a tributary of the Perkiomen Creek and the Schuylkill, is part of a watershed that 1.7 million people use for drinking water, William Early, regional counsel for the Environmental Protection Agency, said.

The company’s pollution led to several fish-kills in the creek from August 2007 to June 2008, when about 25,000 fish were killed.

Federal officials filed a complaint against the plant in December 2008, alleging that it had been out of compliance since 2003. The state DEP and Fish and Boat Commission joined that complaint this month.

Once the complaint was filed, JBS Souderton began to cooperate and help find a solution to the environmental problem, said Patricia Hartman, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Terms of the settlement require JBS Souderton to implement new systems to prevent environmental accidents; install a computer-based system to monitor equipment, leaks and water flow; improve record keeping and training; and incorporate an asset-management and preventative-maintenance program to evaluate and maintain equipment.

JBS Souderton also agreed to build a $6 million wastewater treatment plant to help monitor the quality of water released by the company. The treatment plant is expected to be completed early next month.

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