102 groups urge EPA to rein in meat and poultry processing plant pollution

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Environment America Research & Policy Center spearheads effort to get the agency to update 2004 permit standards

Environment America Research & Policy Center

WASHINGTON – Environment America Research & Policy Center is submitting comments on behalf of 102 organizations today, urging the Environmental Protection Agency to dramatically reduce the massive levels of pollution dumped by agribusiness facilities into America’s waterways. The comments are in response to the agency’s decision not to update permit standards for meat and poultry plants — despite the Clean Water Act’s requirement to do so.

“As we all look forward to our Thanksgiving feasts, some of the world’s largest meat companies are dumping huge volumes of pollution into America’s rivers,” said John Rumpler, clean water program director at Environment America Research & Policy Center. “Polluting our water to process our food just makes no sense; we can and must do better.”

Meat and poultry processing plants are huge sources of water pollution. Over a 5-year period from 2010 to 2014, five large agribusiness companies discharged more than 250 million pounds of toxic pollution from their facilities into America’s waterways, according to a 2016 Environment America Research & Policy Center report. Pollution from agribusiness facilities contributes to toxic algal outbreaks, fish kills, dead zones, drinking water contamination and fecal bacteria that can make swimmers sick. Several of these facilities are dumping into waterways that are already too polluted for one or more intended uses, such as swimming, sustaining wildlife or drinking water.

Absent action from the EPA, the industry’s pollution flow will get worse – as large companies plan more mega-processing plants across the country – including facilities in Nebraska, Tennessee, and Montana. To make matters worse, these industrial slaughterhouses are also driving the proliferation of factory farms which threaten our waterways with millions of tons of manure.

Yet EPA’s Preliminary Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 14 contains no new pollution control requirements for meat and poultry processing plants. The agency last updated pollution standards for the largest agribusiness facilities 2004, while other slaughterhouses are only required to meet federal standards set 44 years ago. EPA’s failure to update these antiquated rules are in direct conflict with the Clean Water Act, which requires the agency to regularly review and update pollution standards, based on available control technology.

“From the Chesapeake Bay to the Great Lakes, Americans are thankful for clean water,” said Rumpler. “Let’s show our gratitude as a nation by ensuring that processing food no longer pollutes our water. The Clean Water Act requires it. Our rivers, lakes, and streams deserve it.”