Department of Justice Seal


FRIDAY, MAY 8, 1998 (202) 514-2008

TDD (202) 514-1888



Agreement Includes New Measures to Control Agricultural Run-off

Could Set New Industry Standards

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Hudson Foods, a subsidiary of the Arkansas-based food processing company Tyson Foods Inc., today agreed to a $6 million settlement to resolve allegations it polluted Maryland waters that flow into the Chincoteague Bay, the federal government announced.

Under the settlement, filed today in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, the company will pay a $4 million civil penalty and spend $2 million to stem the flow of water-polluting agricultural run-off from Hudson's and Tyson's processing plants and farms in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

"This agreement is good for the people of Maryland and good for the environment," said Lois Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "It is another example of how committed we are to enforcing our nation's environmental laws so that the people of this country have clean water to drink, and healthy water to fish and swim in. They deserve nothing less."

The $2 million Hudson will spend on environmental projects will reduce nitrate discharges from Tyson and Hudson Food facilities and reduce phosphorous runoff into local waterways. High levels of nitrogen and phosphorous can overstimulate algae growth and reduce the population of crabs, fish, and other aquatic life.

The settlement also requires the food processing companies to assist its poultry growers across the Delmarva Peninsula to develop and implement site-specific nutrient management plans that will help prevent pollution and protect the environmental health of waterbodies throughout the region.

"This settlement illustrates the Administration's resolve to protect critical water bodies in Maryland and across the nation," said Steve Herman, EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "It is an excellent example of the enhanced protection of human health and the environment we seek to achieve in our enforcement actions."

Lynne A. Battaglia, United States Attorney for the District of Maryland, stated "this consent decree embodies a forward-looking plan that places the burden of reducing harmful waste run-off from chicken farming squarely on the shoulders of Hudson Foods, the poultry processor. We fully expect that the agreements that are part of the decree will aid Maryland poultry farmers in reducing chicken waste run-off into the Chesapeake Bay, and thus help restore the waters of the Eastern Shore to health and vitality."

"Today's settlement resolves a serious threat to water quality at Maryland's Eastern Shore, and promises to reduce water pollution from several other sources," said EPA Regional Administrator W. Michael McCabe. "This is an important commitment by the poultry industry to protect our rivers, bays and estuaries."

According to the Justice Department's lawsuit filed with the settlement today on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, Hudson's Berlin plant discharged wastewater with illegal amounts of fecal coliform, phosporous, nitrogen, ammonia and other pollutants into Kitts Branch. Kitts Branch flows into Trappe Creek, Newport Bay and Chincoteague Bay.

Fecal coliform is an indicator of the presence of disease carrying organisms. EPA regulates fecal coliform to reduce the risk of illnesses such as intestinal, skin, ear and eye infections. Excess levels of phosphorous and nitrogen can overstimulate algae growth and reduce crab and fish populations. Ammonia is toxic to fish.

The government's lawsuit also alleged that Hudson violated pollution monitoring, sampling and notification requirements in its Clean Water Act permit. These requirements include ensuring that testing equipment is accurate, lab tests are performed properly and sampling records are up to date. The government also alleged that Hudson did not provide telephone and written notice of violations, including steps to prevent illegal discharges from recurring.

The proposed settlement will be published in the Federal Register for a 30-day comment period and, if approved by the court, will resolve the government's lawsuit.