The company will also spend approximately $3.5 million on remedial measures to ensure compliance with the law and protect the environment and people’s health.
“By working with DOJ and our state partners in Texas and Oklahoma, we have reached a significant settlement that reflects the seriousness of Mahard’s violations,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Large animal feeding operations that fail to comply with our nation’s environmental laws threaten public health and the environment and put smaller farming operations at a disadvantage.”
Filed jointly with the settlement by the United States and the states of Texas and Oklahoma, the CWA complaint alleges Mahard operated a facility without a permit and discharged pollutants into area waterways. Mahard also allegedly discharged pollutants or otherwise failed to comply with the terms of its permits at six other facilities, including its newest facility near Vernon, Texas, where it also failed to comply with the Texas Construction Storm Water Permit and to ensure safe drinking water for its employees. The states of Texas and Oklahoma also alleged violations of state laws.
Most egg production facilities generate various wastes, including wet or dry manure from chicken houses, wastewater from the egg-washing process and compost from chicken carcasses, EPA relays. If done properly, these wastes may be sold or contained on-site in manure storage lagoons, prior to being applied to nearby fields.
The joint complaint alleges, however, that as a result of Mahard’s historic practice of over-applying waste to its fields, the soils at its facilities are saturated with nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), and during and after rainfall, these nutrients are discharged into area streams and waterways.
Mahard abandoned inactive and improperly designed manure lagoons at several facilities rather than closing them as required by law, EPA charged.
Mahard has committed to comprehensive, system-wide changes in order to bring each of its seven CAFO facilities into compliance with applicable state and federal laws, permits and regulations and to restore the lands to prevent future discharges to area waterways, as part of this settlement. The settlement mandates the performance of specific requirements, such as lagoon closures, groundwater monitoring and the construction and maintenance of buffer strips along area waterways within the facility boundaries. It also requires on-going land restoration and management measures, such as restrictions on land-application of manure and livestock grazing.
Lodged in the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas, the settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.