KELSO, Wash. – Foster Farms faces a $44,000 penalty on claims that a discharge of untreated wastewater from a company poultry facility overwhelmed a treatment plant leading to the release of wastewater the Columbia River, the Department of Ecology of the State of Washington reported. The incident occurred in June.

The state agency also said Foster Farms failed to report the release to the Three Rivers Wastewater Treatment Plant in a timely manner as required by state law.

“If they had immediately reported the discharge, the treatment plant could have had a chance to prepare for it and better protect the river,” Heather Bartlett, manager of Ecology’s Water Quality Program, said in a news release.

In addition to the fine, the agency ordered Foster Farms to update its operation and maintenance manual to specify how the company will protect the Three Rivers treatment plant from discharges in the future.

In a statement, Foster Farms said “Environmental responsibility is important to all of us at Foster Farms. During the installation of new wastewater treatment equipment at our Kelso, Wash., facility, an unplanned discharge occurred. While employees worked to correct the treatment issue on site immediately, the company regrets that notification was inadvertently delayed to the Three Rivers Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant. Foster Farms has an excellent record of permit compliance and self-reporting. The company is reinforcing notification procedures throughout facility operations. We have also taken steps to prevent future wastewater issues. Foster Farms intends to pay the penalty.”

Operators at the treatment plant removed nearly one cubic yard of feathers and other chicken processing waste from the plant’s inlet screen. The agency said the amount of grease and feathers discovered would fill about one-half of a pick-up truck bed.