WASHINGTON, D.C. - ConAgra Foods, Inc., the owner and operator of a food ingredient and flour mill in Hastings, Minnesota, was sentenced for violating the Clean Water Act, the Department of Justice announced today. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson sentenced ConAgra Foods, Inc., to pay a criminal fine of $138,513 and provide $55,000 in community service to the National Park Foundation as well as $55,000 in community service to the Friends of the Mississippi River. ConAgra was also sentenced to pay $1,487 in restitution to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
ConAgra Foods pleaded guilty to a one-count information on September 1, 2005, alleging that between January 1998 and December 2003 it failed to report and maintain documentation of temperature readings of non-contact cooling water discharged from the Hasting facility as required by its National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit.
The information alleges that ConAgra Foods held a permit to discharge non-contact cooling water, used in the facility to cool air compressors. This discharged water flowed out of the facility, over bedrock into the Vermillion River, a tributary of the Mississippi River.
By permit, the non-contact cooling water was not to exceed an average daily temperature of 86 degrees Fahrenheit. During an inspection, it was determined that readings which were higher than allowed by the permit were not transmitted to the MPCA in required Discharge Monitoring Reports.
“Our ability to protect our Nation's rivers from the harmful effects of pollution depends upon the honesty of facilities that receive discharge permits under the Clean Water Act,” said David M. Uhlmann, Chief of the U.S. Department of Justice's Environmental Crimes Section. “When companies fail to honor their legal obligation to report discharges accurately, and seek to conceal Clean Water Act violations, criminal prosecution is appropriate.”
The case was investigated by the Minneapolis Office of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in coordination with the MPCA. The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Jennifer Whitfield of the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.