SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Tyson Poultry Inc., a business unit of Springdale, Arkansas-based Tyson Foods Inc., was sentenced in federal court in Springfield to pay a $2 million criminal fine, serve two years of probation and pay $500,000 to remedy harm caused when it violated the Clean Water Act, according to a Justice Dept. announcement Feb. 27. The charges stemmed from a 2014 environmental incident at its Monett, Missouri, facility involving “unlawful dumping of untreated wastewater.” Tyson reached a civil settlement with the state of Missouri in 2015.

“As we noted last fall, we have resolved federal concerns about a 2014 environmental incident at Monett by taking responsibility for two misdemeanor violations of the Clean Water Act,” Tyson said in a statement to MEAT+POULTRY. “We deeply regret the mistake that was made and have taken corrective action to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We’re committed to doing better all areas of our business, especially when it comes to protecting the environment. Since the incident, we’ve conducted lessons learned training for all environmental managers in our poultry operations. We’ve strengthened our environmental policies and procedures to help prevent similar mistakes.

In May 2014, Tyson received a shipment of wastewater containing Alimet, which is a liquid animal feed supplement, from another company facility in Aurora, Missouri. Tyson sent the wastewater to its pre-treatment facility and later discharged the water to the city of Monett's sewer system.

The Missouri Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) said the discharge caused operational problems at the city's wastewater treatment facility. Dead fish were discovered along a six-mile stretch of Clear Creek when the Monett Municipal Wastewater Treatment Facility discharged the water into a tributary of Clear Creek.

In June of that year, the Missouri DNR sent a notice of violation to Tyson regarding the fish kill. In that same report Missouri DNR also cited the city of Monett for failing "to operate and maintain facilities to comply with the Missouri Clean Water Law and applicable permit conditions.”

After that, then-Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed a lawsuit against Tyson Foods that included six counts of state waters and violations of Missouri's hazardous waste laws.

Following involvement by the EPA, Tyson came to an agreement with the state of Missouri in January 2015 to pay the state $162,898 for natural resource damages in addition to $110,000 in civil penalties. The company also reimbursed the Missouri DNR more than $11,000 for its costs and expenses, and reimbursed the Missouri Dept. of Conservation more than $36,000 for that agency's costs and expenses.

“Since the incident, we’ve conducted lessons learned training for all environmental managers in our poultry operations and have strengthened our environmental policies and procedures to help prevent similar mistakes,” according to Tyson.

“Good corporate practices are vital to protecting public health and our nation’s natural resources,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood for the Environment & Natural Resources Division. “When corporate misconduct disregards human safety or the environment in violation of federal laws, the Department of Justice and EPA stand ready to pursue all necessary legal relief, including criminal penalties, to ensure that these acts do not go unpunished. We hope that the outcome of this case will be a lesson for all companies that deal with dangerous wastes.” 

“Today’s sentence not only remedies the harm Tyson Poultry caused locally, but puts safeguards in place to prevent similar occurrences at Tyson Poultry facilities across the country,” said US Attorney Timothy A. Garrison for the Western District of Missouri. “Tyson’s $2.5 million fine and restitution payment reflects the seriousness of this offense and our commitment to protect Missouri’s natural resources.”

In addition, under the terms of the plea agreement, Tyson Poultry also agreed to retain an independent, third-party auditor to examine environmental compliance at Tyson Poultry facilities across the country; conduct specialized environmental training at all of its poultry processing plants, hatcheries, feed mills, rendering plants and waste water treatment plants; and implement improved policies and procedures to address the circumstances that caused these violations. 

“Today’s sentencing not only holds Tyson Poultry accountable for their illegal actions, it includes important requirements for the company to improve compliance with the law to prevent future violations,” said Assistant Administrator Susan Bodine for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This case exemplifies EPA’s commitment to protect clean water by pursuing the most egregious violations.”