STATEMENT: Deadline set for EPA to reduce slaughterhouse pollution

Media Contacts
John Rumpler

Clean Water Director and Senior Attorney, Environment America

Carcasses hanging in a slaughterhouse

In response to lawsuit, agency will update standards for first time in 20 years

WASHINGTON — In a victory for America’s rivers, a federal court has approved deadlines for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to curb pollution from meat and poultry processing plants. On Wednesday, the court approved a settlement of litigation brought by Environment America, Earthjustice, Environmental Integrity Project and several other organizations. The terms charge the EPA with proposing new pollution control standards for slaughterhouses by the end of 2023 and finalizing them by August 2025.

Despite the requirements of the Clean Water Act, the EPA has not updated pollution control standards (called “effluent limitation guidelines”) for large slaughterhouses since 2004.  Standards for smaller facilities were last set in 1975, and there are still no treatment standards for facilities that send their wastewater to sewage plants. Environment America Research & Policy Center has documented the prevalence of this pollution through a fact sheet and map of offending facilities.

In response to the court order, John Rumpler, senior clean water program director for Environment America, said:

“For far too long, meat and poultry processing plants have dumped pollutants into our rivers that contribute to toxic algae and dead zones, nitrates that can contaminate drinking water, and pathogens that can make us sick.

“It makes no sense to produce our food in ways that pollute our water. After decades of delay, it is imperative that the EPA acts to dramatically reduce the flow of slaughterhouse pollution into our rivers, lakes and streams.”