Washington Beef, a slaughterhouse in central Washington, agreed last week to pay $750,000 in civil penalties for allegedly violating the Clean Water Act between 2003 and 2009. In addition to the monetary penalty, Washington Beef will install several pieces of new waste water treatment equipment which are expected to cost the beef company up to $3 million.
The slaughterhouse, which is owned by Idaho-based AgriBeef Co., is located on the Yakima Indian Reservation, and is thus under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA began investigating the plant in 2008 after reviewing discharge reports.
In response, the Justice Department filed a complaint alleging that Washington Beef “discharged partially treated slaughterhouse wastes into nearby waterways without a permit and exceeded the level of pollutants allowed by its permit on numerous occasions.”
At one point, EPA officials said, contaminants exceeded federal standards by 160 times.
Rick Stott, Agri Beef executive vice president, said wastewater went through the plant’s treatment system and into a series of constructed wetlands. Between 500,000-700,000 gallons per day then went to the irrigation system to be applied to farmer’s fields in the arid Yakima Valley and had no detrimental water quality impact.
In compliance with a federal decree filed in U.S. District Court, Washington Beef will install five new pieces of equipment, including a new sequential batch reactor — a large concrete basin equipped with aerators in which bacteria break down organic pollutants from the slaughterhouse — that will “greatly increase the treatment capacity at the plant,” the agencies said.
The company has also recently obtained a permit for all of its discharges, and is currently meeting its permit limits. According to the EPA, the new equipment the Washington Beef is installing should help ensure future compliance with the Clean Water Act.