Tyson Foods was ordered Tuesday to pay $2.5 million in fines and restitution after one of its plants in Missouri polluted nearby waters, killing more than 100,000 fish.
After years of negotiations, Tyson Poultry Inc., a company subsidiary, pleaded guilty in federal court in Missouri last fall to two misdemeanor charges that stemmed from polluting Missouri waters and violating the federal Clean Water Act.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced Tyson's sentence on Tuesday. Federal prosecutors from the Justice Department and the Western District of Missouri were involved. The Environmental Protection Agency assisted in the investigation.
As punishment, Tyson must pay a $2 million criminal fine to the Justice Department, serve two years of probation, and pay $500,000 to directly remedy the harm its chicken plant caused in May 2014.
According to court records, a tank containing a liquid supplement began leaking at a Tyson mill in Aurora, Mo., where ingredients are mixed into chicken feed. The supplement, called "aliment," has a pH level of less than 1, or stronger than stomach acid.
A contractor, hired by Tyson, transported the tank 15 miles to a Tyson chicken plant in Monett, Mo.
There, records show, the chemical was dumped into the in-house water treatment center, and some of the acid trickled into streams and sewers, and into Monett's municipal wastewater treatment plant, which killed bacteria that the plant's treatment process uses to reduce ammonia levels.
High ammonia levels in treated water discharged into Clear Creek killed approximately 108,000 fish, according to court records.
This is the second-largest environmental penalty Tyson has paid. The largest fine stemmed from violations of the Clean Air Act on eight separate occasions between 2006 and 2010.
Tyson was fined $3.95 million after company plants in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska released anhydrous ammonia, which led to property damage, multiple injuries and one death, according to an EPA news release issued in 2013.
The Monett spill happened a year later, and no fatalities or injuries were reported.
A Tyson spokesman said in an email that half of the $500,000 in remediation funds will go to the city of Monett and the other half will go to Missouri environmental organizations.
Under the plea deal, Tyson agreed to let an independent auditor examine its poultry operations nationwide, conduct environmental training at all of its production facilities, and implement policies and procedures to prevent anything similar from happening again.
"Today's safeguards not only remedies the harm Tyson Poultry caused locally, but puts safeguards in place to prevent similar occurrences ... across the country," Timothy Garrison, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri, said in a prepared statement.
From 2009 to June 2014, Tyson Foods was fined about $4.2 million by the EPA for violations related to the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, according to data compiled by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The violations occurred at about 35 facilities.
A Tyson spokesman said in an email that since the fish kill the company has been better about sustainability efforts and has complied with the arrangements stated in the plea deal.
Tyson also agreed to third-party audits in 2013, after it violated the Clean Air Act over the course of four years.
"We deeply regret the mistake that was made and have taken corrective action to make sure it doesn't happen again," Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said.
Business on 03/01/2018
Print Headline: Tyson to pay $2.5M for '14 fish kill