WASHINGTON – Swift Beef Company, a subsidiary of JBS S.A, the world’s largest beef producer, has agreed to pay $1.3 million to the United States and state of Nebraska to settle alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act and Nebraska state law at its Grand Island, Neb., beef processing plant, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today.
Swift has already spent over $1 million at its Grand Island plant in implementing measures to reduce pollutants in its wastewater as required by its discharge permits issued by the state of Nebraska under the Clean Water Act.
“Swift will pay a significant penalty for its illegal discharges of wastewater that caused interference with the local water treatment system and damage to the aquatic ecosystem of the Wood and Platte rivers,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. “The same industry that puts food on American dinner tables must also comply with the Clean Water Act that keeps our country’s waterways healthy, safe and clean.”
“Protection of our waterways is one of our highest priorities,” said Deborah R. Gilg, U.S. Attorney for the District of Nebraska. “Fouling our Nebraska water demands a harsh penalty to deter others from doing so. We appreciate the collaboration among federal and state agencies that accomplished this.”
The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality issued Swift a permit under the Clean Water Act that allowed Swift to discharge wastewater containing limited amounts of pollutants directly to the Wood River and to the city of Grand Island’s publicly owned treatment works (POTW). The permit prohibited Swift from discharging pollutants that would interfere with the POTW’s treatment process and also required Swift to monitor and report its discharges. According to the complaint, in which Nebraska joined as a co-plaintiff, Swift violated its permit on numerous occasions between 2006 and 2011 by discharging pollutants in excess of the permitted limits and that caused interference with the Grand Island’s POTW’s treatment process. Some of these violations resulted in a 2008 fish kill in a 16 mile stretch of the Wood River and a 7.5 mile length of the Platte River. An estimated 10,000 fish were killed. The complaint alleges that Swift also violated its permits’ reporting requirements as well as effluent limitations in an emergency order issued by the state of Nebraska in April 2008.
Swift is headquartered in Greeley, Colo. Swift’s Grand Island beef processing plant slaughters, fabricates and packages approximately 5,800 head of beef per day. The plant also conducts blood drying, rendering and hide pickling. The Grand Island plant has approximately 2,700 employees.
After the fish kill in 2008, Swift undertook voluntary improvements to its treatment system to prevent future upsets at Grand Island’s POTW and to protect aquatic life and beneficial uses, such as fishing, swimming and boating in the Wood and Platte rivers. The expansion of Swift’s anaerobic treatment system and installation of centrifuges will result in annual pollutant reductions of 1,281,150 pounds of carbonaceous biological oxygen demand (CBOD), 579,438 pounds of total suspended solids (TSS) and 340,195 pounds of oil and grease.
“EPA Region 7 worked effectively with Nebraska's Department of Environmental Quality to investigate and remedy this unacceptable pollution of the state's premier river,” said EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks. “This kind of teamwork typifies EPA's commitment to partnership with states and illustrates this region's dedication to clean water and public health.”
The consent decree requires Swift to pay more than $1.3 million in civil penalties and damages to natural resources, including a $1.2 million civil penalty for its Clean Water Act violations that will be split evenly between the U.S. and Nebraska. In addition, Swift will pay Nebraska $100,000 for violations of a state 2008 administrative order and will pay the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission $4,705 for resource damages to restock waters with fish and clams.
This case was brought as part of the National Pretreatment Program, which is a cooperative effort of federal, state and local regulatory environmental agencies established to protect water quality. The program seeks to protect POTWs from the introduction of pollutants that may interfere with plant operation or that may pass through untreated. By reducing the level of pollutants discharged by industry into municipal sewage systems, the pretreatment program protects America's multi-billion-dollar public investment in treatment infrastructure. Eighty-five categories of industrial users are subject to numerous self-implementing regulations.
Learn more about EPA’s civil enforcement of the Clean Water Act: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/civil/cwa/cwaenfprog.html
The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Justice Department Web site at www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html