Company To Pay $1.05 Million Penalty, Comply With Construction Schedule For Wastewater Treatment Plant

M.G. Waldbaum Co., a subsidiary of Minnesota-based Michael Foods Inc., agreed to pay a $1.05 million penalty to resolve allegations that the company violated the Clean Water Act with illegal discharges and improper management of manure.

The Jan. 10 settlement, which is the result of a joint federal-state effort, involves a large egg-processing facility and seven associated poultry farms near the city of Wakefield, Neb. The civil penalty will be divided equally between the state and the federal government.

The Clean Water Act violations concern allegations of:

  • Overloading the wastewater treatment lagoons at the city of Wakefield's publicly owned treatment works (POTW).
  • Discharging pollutants from a large pile of poultry waste into Logan Creek without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit (NPDES) at its Husker Pride poultry concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) (one of Waldbaum's seven poultry farms).
  • Improperly dumping process sludge waste from its egg processing facility at two of its other poultry farms rather than spreading on the ground in accordance with state standards.

As part of this settlement, Waldbaum has committed to comply with a schedule in its current NPDES permit for construction of a wastewater treatment plant to treat the effluent from its egg-processing facility. Construction of the new plant will be completed in 2009 at an estimated cost of $16 million.

"This settlement is a result of the EPA enforcement program's focus on significant environmental problems, such as illegal discharges into our water systems and improper management of manure from concentrated animal feeding operations," said Granta Y. Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "This is a great example of what can be accomplished when EPA and a state work together to address noncompliance with our nation's environmental laws."

As part of the settlement, Waldbaum also agreed to apply for a NPDES permit for its Husker Pride poultry farm CAFO and to develop and implement manure-management plans at its other six poultry farms. The corrective actions in the agreement are designed to protect the integrity of the city of Wakefield POTW's lagoon system and will protect surface-water quality with better treatment of egg processing effluent and improved poultry manure management practices. EPA estimates that actions under the agreement will result in annual reductions of 60 pounds of phosphorus, 18,250 pounds of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), 61,000 pounds of total suspended solids (TSS) and 41,600 pounds of ammonia.

Ammonia is a component of poultry manure. Excessive amounts of ammonia, in wastewater can be harmful to wildlife, particularly to fish and other aquatic organisms. Excessive amounts of phosphorous, BOD and TSS in wastewater harms waterways by depleting dissolved oxygen needed by aquatic life to live.

Concurrent with this settlement, a Clean Water Act settlement with the city of Wakefield, Neb., was filed for numerous NPDES permit violations at its POTW -- many due to overloading of its lagoons by effluent from Waldbaum's egg-processing facility. Under the agreement, the city will pay a civil penalty of $20,000, comply with the Clean Water Act and its NPDES permit, prohibit POTW treatment of wastewater from Waldbaum, and conduct increased influent and effluent monitoring and reporting.

Copies of both consent decrees are available on the U.S. Justice Department's Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html. More information on the EPA's CAFO national enforcement and compliance assurance priority can be found at http://epa.gov/compliance/data/planning/priorities/cwacafo.html.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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