Tyson Fresh Meats, also known as IBP Inc, was accused of violating terms of a 2002 consent decree and a federally-issued pollution discharge permit at its meat processing factory in Dakota City, Nebraska.

The US Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the fine totalling $2,026,500 last week, because the firm had allegedly pumped animal waste into a river.

Tyson discharges an average of 5m gallons of treated effluent into the Missouri River each day but did not adequately monitor it, according to the environmental watch dogs.

The 2002 consent decree for the factory also meant the firm had to build a $2.9M nitrification system to reduce the amount of ammonia in its wastewater discharges.

The consent decree also stated that once the installation of the nitrification system was complete, the United States would begin to enforce certain limits of a new National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit relating to toxicity and ammonia levels in the facilities treated wastewater discharge.

According to a filing, made last week, in the US District Court in Omaha the government alleged that from July 2003 through March 2004, Tyson failed to properly operate this nitrification system.

As a result there were numerous discharges of fecal coliform and nitrites in the river causing caused high levels of toxicity to fish and other aquatic life.

The Justice Department environment and natural resources division’s acting assistant attorney general, John C Cruden, said: “This penalty serves as an example that we take violations of these agreements seriously and we will take appropriate steps to insure that their provisions are followed.”

Following the annoucment Tyson issued a statement: “After we became aware in 2003 that some treatment plant processes were not performing as intended.

“Operational changes were made and additional equipment and systems added, enabling the treatment system to function consistently.

“Over the past nine years, approximately $27m has been spent upgrading and improving the IBP wastewater treatment system at Dakota City, this includes more than $4m spent on modifications since 2003”.

Luke Walsh

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