US judge to dismiss House of Raeford case

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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RALEIGH, NC – A federal judge plans to dismiss a two-year-old pollution case against poultry processor House of Raeford Farms and one of its turkey processing plant managers, claiming the prosecutors failed to bring the case to a speedy trial. US Judge James Beaty has not yet filed a written order, but his comments are noted in federal courts records, according to the Associated Press.

Attorneys for the Rose Hill, NC-based company and Raeford turkey processing plant manager Gregory Steenblock argued that the US Justice Department should have pursued the two-year-old case within 70 days to comply with federal speedy-trial requirements. Attorneys for the company and Steenblock declined comment Feb. 6.

US Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said the agency also declined to comment. But prosecutors made clear previously that they won't drop the case accusing House of Raeford of violating federal clean water laws by flushing turkey remains into a municipal sewage treatment plant.

The company appealed as far as the US Supreme Court in its fight against the charges. In October, the court denied the company's request to consider arguments that it can't be prosecuted because it's already paid nearly $1 million in pollution fines and shouldn't be punished twice.

Prosecutors accused the company and Steenblock in 2009 of knowingly bypassing the plant's water treatment system 14 times in 2005 and 2006, which dumped turkey feathers, blood and internal organs into waterways. They also said the company's Raeford processing plant couldn't handle the daily flow of 1 million gallons of wastewater and sent untreated water to the city's municipal sewage treatment works.

The company said it completed a $1.4 million pretreatment facility in September 2006 that solved the problems.

Privately owned House of Raeford processes chickens and turkeys in eight plants in North Carolina, South Carolina and Louisiana.

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