WASHINGTON—A federal grand jury in Greensboro, N.C., returned an indictment today charging a poultry processor and a plant manager with multiple violations of the Clean Water Act for illegally discharging wastewater from its Raeford, N.C., based facility, the Justice Department announced.
House of Raeford Farms Inc. and its plant manager, Gregory Steenblock, were both charged with 14 counts of violating the Clean Water Act. House of Raeford is a turkey slaughter and processing facility located in Raeford.
The indictment alleges that on 14 occasions between January 2005 and August 2006, House of Raeford and plant manager Steenblock allowed plant employees to bypass the facility’s pretreatment system and send its untreated wastewater directly to the Raeford Publicly Owned Treatment Works without notifying city officials. The untreated wastewater was contaminated with waste from processing operations, including blood and body parts from the slaughtered turkeys.
The bypasses and failure to report them were in violation of House of Raeford’s pretreatment permit as well as the city of Raeford’s sewer use ordinance. As alleged in the indictment, many of the bypasses took place while House of Raeford was subject to a consent order with the city that specifically required it to eliminate all bypasses from its facility.
House of Raeford is owned by House of Raeford Farms Inc., a privately held corporation operating seven poultry slaughter and processing facilities in North Carolina, South Carolina and Louisiana. The Raeford facility processes over 30,000 turkeys per day and its operations generate approximately one million gallons of wastewater per day.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
If convicted, the company faces a maximum fine of $500,000 or twice the gain or loss resulting from the offense, whichever is greater, per count. Steenblock faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, per count.
The case is being prosecuted by the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section and was investigated by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-Criminal Investigation Division and North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.