Tyson on the hook for 2014 fish kill in Missouri

by Erica Shaffer
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Springdale, Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, Inc. reached a settlement with the state of Missouri over "unlawful dumping of untreated wastewater" that resulted a fish kill in a southwest Missouri stream.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said Tyson agreed to pay the state $162,898 for natural resource damages in addition to $110,000 in civil penalties. The company also will reimburse the Missouri Department of Natural Resources more than $11,000 for its costs and expenses, and will reimburse the Missouri Department of Conservation more than $36,000 for that agency's costs and expenses.

“We deeply regret the incident in Clear Creek, near Monett, Mo., this past May," Tyson said in a statement. "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.

"As part of the 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."

Since the incident, Tyson has taken steps to prevent future mistakes including:

• New requirements and practices to prevent, monitor and respond to animal-feed releases at its corporate feed mills;

• Additional hazardous waste and water discharge training to personnel at the Monett and Aurora facilities;

• A new, company-wide environmental operating procedure that focuses on feed mill chemical storage practices; and

• A summit of managers at all its Missouri facilities to conduct a comprehensive review of environmental issues at those facilities.

In May 2014, Tyson received a shipment of wastewater containing a liquid animal feed supplement from another company facility in Aurora, Mo. Tyson reportedly sent the wastewater to its pre-treatment facility and later discharged the water to the city of Monett's sewer system. But the discharge caused operational problems at Monett's wastewater treatment facility, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The wastewater resulted in a fish kill along a six-mile stretch of Clear Creek after the Monett Municipal Wastewater Treatment Facility discharged the water into a tributary of Clear Creek.

In June 2014, Koster filed a lawsuit against Tyson Foods for pollution of state waters and violations of Missouri's hazardous waste laws. Koster had sought penalties against Tyson, compensation for damage to the stream, Clear Creek, and reimbursement for costs associated with the state's investigation into the incident.

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 any 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’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."
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