MONTGOMERY, ALA. – The Attorney General's Office for Alabama is suing Tyson Foods Inc. over the release of partially treated effluent into the Black Warrior River and Mulberry Fork in Alabama during June 2019.

The state said in its lawsuit that Tyson “engaged in negligent and wanton conduct by causing a public nuisance, committing a trespass to State land, and committing a trespass to chattel, resulting in the death of various species of fish and other wildlife.”

Worth Sparkman, spokesperson for Tyson Foods, responded to the lawsuit and said the company worked for months to try and resolve the matter with the state. 

“We are disappointed in the decision of the Alabama Attorney General to file suit,” Sparkman said. “We’re focused on the health and safety of our employees and are doing all we can to continue to feed America during these challenging times. We look forward to presenting our side of the story.”

Sparkman said the company offered to initiate conservation and community projects, including river access in the area of the accidental release. 

Officials estimated that 220,000 gallons of partially treated wastewater was released into Black Warrior River and Mulberry Fork. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources conservatively estimated 175,000 fish were killed following the spill.

In an open letter in August 2019, Tyson Foods said that a mechanical failure in temporary piping installed by a contractor at its Hanceville, Ala., River Valley Ingredients facility was the reason for the release of partially treated effluent. 

At the time, Shane Parks, vice president of the facility, stated his regret for the incident. 

“First and most importantly, we understand that events like this are unacceptable,” Parks said. “We strive to be good stewards of the environment and we take that obligation seriously. While this was an isolated event, I want you to know that we’ve taken measures to improve our operation at this facility.”