Tyson Foods settles civil suit with Missouri related to fish kill

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 163 views 

Springdale-based Tyson Foods Inc. has agreed to a $530,000 settlement with the state of Missouri over "unlawful dumping of untreated wastewater" that caused a large (100,000) fish kill near Monett last year.

“We deeply regret the incident in Clear Creek, near Monett, Missouri, this past May. We’ve worked diligently and cooperatively with state and other authorities to make things right, including entering into a settlement agreement with the state. Tyson Foods’ core values include serving as stewards of the environment – in Missouri and every community where we operate – and we take that obligation seriously,” Tyson Foods spokesman Worth Sparkman said in a statement.
 
As part of the civil settlement, Tyson will fund a project that replaces a bridge, which will allow fish and mussels living in Clear Creek to move about more freely. 

“We’re also making a donation to the James River Basin Partnership,” Sparkman said. 

The settlement announced Tuesday (Jan. 20) by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster provides that Tyson pay the state $162,898 for natural resource damages in addition to $110,000 in civil penalties. Another $11,000 will go toward reimbursing the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for costs and expenses. Tyson also agreed to reimburse the Missouri Department of Conservation more than $36,000 for costs and expenses. The deal also requires Tyson to pay up to $210,000 to replace a bridge over Clear Creek.

The settlement is around 0.07% of the $727 million in net income the company earned in the first three fiscal quarters of 2014.

The accident drew national media attention in May after Tyson received a shipment of wastewater containing a liquid animal feed supplement from another company in facility in Aurora. Mo. 

The meat giant accidentally sent the wastewater to its pre-treatment facility and later discharged the water to the city of Monett's sewer system. The discharge reportedly caused operational problems at Monett's wastewater treatment facility, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources report.

Fish along a six-mile stretch of Clear Creek were poisoned by the wastewater discharge which resulted in the lawsuit filed by Koster in June.

"Tyson’s actions threatened the vitality of Clear Creek," Koster said. "While Tyson has taken steps to prevent similar environmental damage to the creek in the future, the penalties contained in this agreement hold the company accountable for the damage that occurred."

In addition to monetary fees, the agreement outlines additional obligations that Tyson Foods must meet. The company must prepare a hazardous waste manifest before transporting hazardous waste in Missouri. Tyson must also allow the state of Missouri to inspect the Monett and Aurora facilities at any time to check for compliance with the law and to monitor the progress of all activities required in the agreement.

Tyson still faces the outcome of the Environmental Protection Agency’s review on this incident. The EPA began a criminal investigation last year to which Tyson said it was cooperating.

Since the accident Tyson Foods reports that it has taken prevention steps to eliminate future incidents. The company set up new requirements and practices to monitor and respond to animal-feed releases at its corporate feed mills.

It also is providing additional hazardous waste and water discharge training to personnel at the Monett and Aurora facilities. It also calls for a summit of managers at all its Missouri facilities to conduct a comprehensive review of environmental issues at those facilities.

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