Swift Beef Co. agreed to pay a $1.3 million fine to settle allegations the company violated the federal Clean Water Act by dumping pollutants into rivers near its Grand Island, Neb., processing plant.
Beginning in 2006, Swift violated its government permits on “numerous occasions” by discharging excess pollutants into Grand Island’s water treatment system, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a June 16 statement.
In 2008, some of the discharges killed an estimated 10,000 fish in a 16-mile stretch of the Wood River and in a 7.5-mile stretch of the Platte River, the Justice Department said. The state of Nebraska joined the Justice Department as a plaintiff in the complaint.
“Swift will pay a significant penalty for its illegal discharges of wastewater that caused interference with the local water treatment system and damage to the aquatic ecosystem of the Wood and Platte rivers,” Ignacia Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in the statement.
“The same industry that puts food on American dinner tables must also comply with the Clean Water Act that keeps our country’s waterways healthy, safe and clean,” Moreno said.
JBS S.A., the Brazil-based meat company that owns Swift, said it has spent over $1 million since 2007 to improve wastewater quality at the Grand Island plant. “As a result, the Grand Island facility is now in full compliance with its wastewater discharge requirements,” JBS said in a separate statement.
JBS is “pleased to have reached an amicable resolution” that resolves both the federal and state claims, the company said. “It’s our constant commitment to meet all environmental regulations and requirements, as well as to contribute positively to the communities in which we operate.”
“We regret any oversights that led to these events, and we’ll continue to cooperate fully” with federal and state environmental regulators, JBS said.
The Grand Island plant has capacity to process about 5,800 head of cattle a day. In addition to slaughter and beef packaging operations, Swift also conducts blood drying, hide pickling and rendering at the plant.
JBS has capacity to slaughter about 28,600 head of cattle a day at its U.S. plants, making it the country’s third-largest beef processor, according to Cattle Buyers Weekly data.