Pig farmer could have to pay up to $50 million to remedy pollution

The US’s second largest pig producer is being fined $350,000 for pollution from 21 pig farms in Missouri, and will have to pay up to $50 million on developing and installing cleaner wastewater treatment technologies.

Premium Standard Farms (PSF) and the Continental Grain Company have agreed a settlement with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a community group, Citizens Legal Environmental Action Network, designed to resolve environmental violations from their large-scale farms, known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), which comprise 1,000 pig barns, 163 animal waste lagoons, and 1.25 million pigs. This latest fine is on top of a $650,000 fine already levied on the companies.

The settlement is designed to produce significant reductions of odorous and potentially harmful air pollutants from the farms and to prevent spills of animal wastes that damage the ecology of local waterways. PSF and Continental will also have to reduce the nitrogen content of waste at their largest farms by 50% before it is applied to land, and substantially reduce ammonia emissions. The companies have also agreed to fund a $300,000 supplemental environmental project to reduce air emissions and odours from pig barns.

“We believe this decree presents and fair, logical and reasonable solution to a significant series of problems,” said Todd P Graves, US Attorney for the Western District of Missouri. “This decree provides significant incentive for the defendants to make improvements in their operations that should spur creation of new technologies that could ultimately benefit farms of all sizes, and the quality of life for many Missourians.”

The companies will also have to calculate and declare levels of emissions from the largest barns and lagoons before and after improvements have been made, and will have to apply to the local authorities for any necessary Clean Air Act permits.

“This settlement is a prime example of how the federal government can complement and enhance the work of the states to protect the environment and the public,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John C Cruden. “The consent decree is a model of how to reduce emissions and protect human health.”

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