EPA says Tyson Foods will pay $3.9-million for violating air quality

Ag/Outdoor, News

April 5th, 2013 by Ric Hanson

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U-S Justice Department reports Tyson Foods, Inc., has agreed to pay a $3.95-million civil penalty to settle alleged violations of Clean Air Act regulations covering the prevention of chemical accidents at its facilities in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. As part of a consent decree lodged today (Friday) in U.S. District Court in St. Louis, Mo., Tyson agreed to conduct pipe-testing and third-party audits of its ammonia refrigeration systems to improve compliance with the Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Program requirements at all 23 of the company’s facilities in the four Midwestern states.

Those facilities include Tyson operations located in Cherokee, Columbus Junction, Council Bluffs, Denison, Perry, Sioux City, Storm Lake and Waterloo in Iowa, and four facilities in Nebraska. Among them is the plant in Omaha.  The settlement stems from a series of eight separate incidents between 2006 and 2010 in which accidental releases of anhydrous ammonia at Tyson facilities resulted in property damage, multiple injuries, and one fatality.

In addition to the $3.95 million penalty, pipe-testing and third-party audits, Tyson will also spend at least $300,000 as part of a Supplemental Environmental Project that will purchase anhydrous ammonia related emergency response equipment for fire departments in eight environmental justice communities where the company’s operations are located. In Council Bluffs, that amounts to $78,990, and in Omaha,  $17,934. The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.

Through a series of inspections and information requests, EPA found multiple occasions of noncompliance with the Clean Air Act’s chemical accident prevention provisions at Tyson’s facilities. Dating back to October 2006, those violations included failures to follow the general industry standards to test or replace safety relief valves, improperly co-located gas-fired boilers and ammonia machinery, as well as failures to abide by the Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Program prevention and reporting requirements.

Tyson, headquartered in Springdale, Ark., is the world’s largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef and pork.