EPA: Two Companies Could Spend $50 Million to Install 'Next Generation' Technology

Missouri hog farms reach agreement with U.S. government over environmental violations.

Two related companies, Premium Standard Farms (PSF) and Continental Grain, which together comprise the second largest producer of hogs in the United States, have entered into a settlement to resolve environmental violations at the companies' large-scale farms. The farms, known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), are in Missouri.

The settlement, reached with the United States and the Citizens Legal Environmental Action Network, was announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Justice Department.

According to the consent decree, which was lodged Nov. 20 in the Western District of Missouri in Kansas City, PSF and Continental have agreed to pay a $350,000 civil penalty (besides $650,000 previously paid to Missouri), and spend, according to EPA estimates, as much as $50 million to develop and install cleaner wastewater treatment technologies never before used in large-scale farm operations.

PSF's and Continental's operations in Missouri consist of more than 1,000 hog barns, 163 animal waste lagoons and 1.25 million pigs primarily located on 21 large-scale farms in five counties. The settlement will produce significant reduction of odorous and potentially harmful air pollutants from their facilities and prevent spills of animal wastes that can result in fish kills or other harm to local rivers and streams.

The decree requires PSF and Continental to develop and install wastewater treatment technologies for CAFOs that will greatly reduce the toxicity of the tremendous amount of animal wastes produced and the overall emissions of odorous and potentially harmful air pollutants, substantially benefiting human health and the environment. In addition, PSF and Continental have agreed to reduce by at least 50 percent the nitrogen content of waste at the larger Class 1A CAFO farms before it is land applied and to substantially reduce ammonia emissions.

The decree requires the companies to calculate and report on emissions from its large barns and lagoons, and to apply to Missouri for any necessary Clean Air Act permits. Under the decree, defendants will compile data on their current facilities' operations before and after technological improvements have been made.

The federal decree is in addition to a prior consent judgment negotiated by Missouri, PSF and Continental that requires the defendants to spend up to $25 million to develop "next generation technology" to reduce air and water pollution.

"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. The consent decree is a model of how to reduce emissions and protect human health," Acting Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden said.

Sylvia Lowrance, EPA acting assistant administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, noted that the settlement "will put in place new technologies and pollution prevention advances to ensure compliance with environmental laws and to protect the air and water for the surrounding communities."

The companies also will be required to comply with new farm management practices designed to prevent future discharges of animal wastes and minimize the negative impact of the facilities on local residents. Furthermore, the companies have agreed to fund a $300,000 supplemental environmental project to reduce air emissions and odors from swine barns.

Improper handling of manure from feedlots, lagoons and improper land application can result in excessive nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), pathogens (fecal coliform) and other pollutants in the water. This pollution can kill fish, cause excessive algae growth and contaminate drinking water. Emissions of air pollutants are also of concern for nearby residents.

"We believe this decree presents a fair, logical and reasonable solution to a significant series of problems," said Todd P. Graves, U.S. 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 agreement resolves claims that PSF and Continental violated numerous requirements of the Clean Water Act, which prohibits discharges of pollutants into waters of the United States without authorization by a permit. In the case of permitted CAFOs, Clean Water Act regulations prohibit discharges to navigable waters absent extraordinary circumstances. The settlement also resolves potential claims under the Clean Air Act and other laws addressing violations of limits on air emissions and permit and reporting requirements. The consent decree is available for public comment for 30 days.

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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