The groups allege JBS-Swift Beef has violated the Clean Air Act by using a precarious method to dispose of wastewater without the mandated tracking of potential ozone pollution.
JBS-Swift Beef’s 2015 air permit requires the company conduct testing and sampling of salty wastewater generated during the processing of hides from slaughtered animals to ensure compliance of pollutant emissions limits. However, over the past four years the company failed to conduct the mandated sampling and reporting and has used an evaporator to manage and dispose of this wastewater since January 2019.
“As one of the world’s biggest meat producers, JBS should be a leader making sure its slaughterhouse operations aren’t polluting the region’s air or water,” said Hannah Connor, a senior attorney at the Center. “Colorado’s communities and wildlife deserve better than chronic noncompliance with laws that are in place to protect the region’s air quality, especially given the state’s ongoing problem with controlling smog along the Front Range.”
As a part of its beef slaughterhouse in Greeley, Colo., JBS-Swift Beef operates a rendering plant that breaks down animal byproducts such as blood, fats and animal hides. A brine-saltwater bath is used in that process to preserve the hides for sale. This rendering process generates an estimated 5.2 million gallons of salt-brine wastewater per year.
“Salts can be harmful to aquatic ecosystems, but while reducing the briny wastewater discharged into Lone Tree Creek through the use of an evaporator system
may have temporary benefits for water quality, it is unacceptable for JBS to simply violate the Clean Air Act in order to do so,” said Tarah Heinzen, senior attorney with Food & Water Watch. “We expect JBS to comply with all of its pollution requirements, not to pick and choose among them.”
Determining whether the JBS wastewater disposal is contributing to ozone pollution is important because the company’s rendering plant is located in a region that is failing to meet air quality standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency due to high levels of ground-level ozone.
Smog threatens public health by worsening asthma attacks and increasing hospital visits, and can even kill people.
Smog also harms wildlife and ecosystems. The region’s ponderosa pines are particularly sensitive to smog pollution, which can stunt growth and increase risks from disease, weather and insects. Ponderosa pine habitat in the region is critical for several species, including the threatened Mexican Spotted Owl.
Today’s notice follows a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and Food & Water Watch earlier this year that challenges JBS USA and the JBS-Swift Beef Company’s chronic Clean Water Act permit violations at its Lone Tree Wastewater Treatment Plant, also in Greeley.
The new notice gives JBS USA and the JBS-Swift Beef Company 60 days to resolve the violations. The Center for Biological Diversity and Food & Water Watch are represented in this action by counsel with the nonprofit legal advocacy organization Public Justice, as well as in-house counsel.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Food & Water Watch mobilizes people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people’s health, communities and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.
Public Justice pursues high impact lawsuits to combat social and economic injustice, protect the Earth’s sustainability, and challenge predatory corporate conduct and government abuses.