Federal complaint filed against Seaboard Foods for alleged illegal dumping of hog manure
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a complaint against Seaboard Foods and PIC USA alleging that the companies have failed to comply with an Environmental Protection Agency order to prevent swine manure from contaminating drinking water. The companies were ordered to clean up five confinement hog operations on June 26, 2001. The complaint notes that each confined pig generates approximately 6-8 pounds of manure daily per 100 pounds of animal weight. Each confinement building contains approximately 1,000 pigs. Thus, at 300 pounds per pig, the daily manure produced by the five facilities combined would be approximately 40-50 tons. The complaint alleges that Seaboard Foods, the present owner of the CAFOs, and PIC USA, the prior owner of the CAFOs, are in violation of the Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA) by contaminating soil and groundwater through overapplication of the swine manure to fields which then leached into groundwater. The SWDA regulates the disposal of solid waste, which is defined as, “any discarded material, including solid, liquid, semisolid or contained gaseous material resulting from industrial, commercial, mining and agricultural operations. The complaint alleges that the defendants’ CAFO activities have contaminated the groundwater with five to seven times the permissible levels of nitrates. Nitrate poisoning is known to cause cyanosis, asphyxia and methemoglobinemia in humans. Four of the five CAFOs at issue are located in Kingfisher county, Oklahoma, and the fifth is in Major county, Oklahoma. The Justice Department is seeking compliance with the June 26, 2001, order, and fines of up to $5,500 per violation per day. United States v. Seaboard Foods, L.P., et al., No. 5:06-cv-00990-HE (W.D. Okla., filed Sept. 14, 2006).
Note: On September 15, 2006, Seaboard Foods and PIC USA entered into two consent decrees with the DOJ as a settlement of the litigation filed a day earlier. Under the first consent agreement, Seaboard Foods and PIC USA will pay a civil penalty of $240,000 for violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) dating back to 2001. In the second consent agreement, Seaboard will pay a civil penalty of $205,000 for failure to comply with the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act and for failure to comply with the continuous release reporting requirements of the the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act. Payment of a $100,000 civil penalty by Seaboard in a separate Air Compliance Agreement with the EPA will be credited toward this amount. As part of the settlement, Seaboard will be required to implement various erosion control measures at 16 farms to prevent any future runoff of soils and sediments to nearby rivers or streams and to establish protective buffer zones around sensitive wetland areas at 17 of its farms.
The consent decrees are subject to a 30-day public comment period and subsequent judicial approval and are available at the following link:
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