Under the terms of the proposed settlement, Pilgrim’s agreed to:
- Pay a civil penalty of $130,000;
- Pay $1.3 million to Stetson Univ. to establish The Sustainable Farming Fund that will provide grants to farmers located in the Suwannee River Basin for on-farm projects designed to improve surface water quality, groundwater quality and soil quality;
- Conduct a water use and reuse study, an analysis of the Live Oak plant’s water supply system, and various upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant;
- Conduct a comprehensive study on eliminating the plant’s wastewater discharge to the Suwannee River;
- Conduct a toxicity identification evaluation to address the cause of the plant’s toxicity violations.
The settlement must be approved by US District Court Judge Timothy J. Corrigan.
Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, organizing representative for the local Sierra Club chapter, said the settlement “…is a major step towards restoring the health of one of Florida's most beautiful rivers. Not only will the settlement directly address illegal pollution from the Live Oak plant, but the significant penalty payment should deter other polluters in Florida from breaking our fundamental environmental laws.”
Environment America Inc., a non-profit environmental organization, filed the lawsuit in March. In the lawsuit, the group said the wastewater discharged from the Live Oak plant “repeatedly violated the limit for chronic toxicity” contained in the company’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, which governs the amount of allowable pollutants and other characteristics of wastewater discharged from the plant.