May 19, 2011

Texas Egg Producer to Pay Penalty to Resolve Clean Water Act Violations

Company executives will pay $1.9 million, the largest sum ever for a federal enforcement action

Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice officials announced Wednesday that Mahard Egg Farm Inc. will pay a $1.9 million penalty to resolve claims that the company violated the Clean Water Act at its egg production facilities in Texas and Oklahoma.
The civil penalty is the largest amount to be paid in a federal enforcement action involving a concentrated animal feeding operation. The company will also spend approximately $3.5 million on remedial measures to ensure compliance with the law and protect the environment and people’s health.

The complaint, filed jointly with the settlement by federal and state officials, alleges that the company operated a facility without a permit and discharged pollutants into area waterways. Company officials also allegedly discharged pollutants or otherwise failed to comply with the terms of permits at six other facilities, including the newest facility near Vernon, Texas, where it also failed to comply with the Texas Construction Storm Water Permit and to ensure safe drinking water for employees.
Most egg production facilities generate various wastes, including wet or dry manure from chicken houses, wastewater from the egg-washing process and compost from chicken carcasses. If done properly, these wastes may be sold or contained on-site in manure storage lagoons, prior to being applied to nearby fields. However, the joint complaint alleges that, as a result of Mahard’s historic practice of over-applying waste to its fields, the soils at its facilities are saturated with nutrients that are discharged into area streams and waterways.
As part of this settlement, Mahard executives have committed to comprehensive, system-wide changes in order to bring each of the seven facilities into compliance with applicable state and federal laws, permits and regulations, and to restore the lands to prevent future discharges to area waterways.
The settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.