Cargill to cut nitrogen discharge in wastewater

by Bryan Salvage
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FORT MORGAN, Colo. – Cargill is in the design phase of a project that once it’s completed it will significantly improve the quality of water discharged into the South Platte River from its beef processing facility in Fort Morgan. Improvements will address discharge of total inorganic nitrogen (TIN) and phosphorous, as well as provide improved biogas production, capture and use from organic materials in the facility’s waste water.

Work is expected to begin mid-2011 and expected to be complete by the third quarter of 2012 at an estimated cost of more than $6 million.

The project is part of an ongoing water quality upgrade initiative by Cargill’s Fort Morgan facility, which has already reduced nitrate discharge into waterways by approximately 70% from 2005 through 2009, a figure verified by publicly available US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) information. Cargill’s beef facility is currently compliant with all Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) water requirements for discharge into the South Platte River.

“While we are proud of the strides we have made in areas such as methane gas capture and use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as reduce our energy requirements by using methane gas to provide 30% of the facility’s total fuel needs, we are always looking for ways to improve our environmental footprint,” said Nicole Johnson-Hoffman, assistant vice president and general manager at Cargill’s Fort Morgan beef processing facility. “As a firm with an agricultural heritage dating back to its 1865 founding as a grain company in rural Iowa, we at Cargill understand the importance and obligation we have as natural resource stewards. Responsibly feeding the increasing world population requires thoughtful management of all resources.”

Cargill’s Fort Morgan facility has been ISO 14001 certified since 2008, which involves identifying and controlling the environmental impact of activities conducted at the facility, continuous environmental improvement and a systematic approach to establishing, implementing and demonstrating environmental objectives have been achieved. ISO 14001 is an international standard by which environmental stewardship by industrial organizations is measured.

“Although we are compliant with current discharge requirements, we believe investing in ways to further reduce our environmental footprint is the right thing to do,” explained Johnson-Hoffman. “This work illustrates how industry can successfully partner with the regulatory community to ensure air, land and water resources are managed properly for future generations. The CDPHE has completed its work to determine how best to implement a Total Maximum Daily Load [TMDL] plan for the South Platte River. We have worked closely with CDPHE during our discharge permit renewal process to ensure our planned upgrades allow the state to meet its goals. This type of partnership is critical to the long-term success of our business.”

Opened in 1966, the facility’s 2,000 employees harvest approximately 1.2 million head of cattle annually.
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