Under two related settlements, Seaboard Foods, LP and PIC USA, Inc., will take significant steps at many of their facilities to ensure future compliance with environmental laws and to resolve allegations that the companies contaminated groundwater and surface waters near several of their facilities, according to the Justice Department and the U.S. EPA.
Seaboard Foods, LP, one of the nation’s largest vertically integrated pork producers, is the current owner of more than 200 farms in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and Colorado, and PIC USA, Inc. is the former owner and operator of several of the farms located in Oklahoma now operated by Seaboard.
Under the first consent decree, Seaboard Foods and PIC USA will pay a civil penalty of $240,000 for violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the federal hazardous waste statute, dating back to 2001. In the second settlement, Seaboard will pay a civil penalty of $205,000 for failure to comply with the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Clean Air Act (CAA), and for failure to comply with the continuous release reporting requirements of Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). Payment of a $100,000 civil penalty by Seaboard in a separate Air Compliance Agreement with the EPA will be credited toward this amount.
“Today’s settlements represent an excellent result for the people of Oklahoma and a significant commitment by the companies to address the impacts of their operations and to remedy their impacts on ground water and surface waters,” said Sue Ellen Wooldridge, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “In securing an extensive program of injunctive relief, we are confident that today’s settlement will help to ensure the protection of drinking water sources in Oklahoma.”
“This settlement represents a significant effort to address the impacts of animal waste handling practices and to bring operations into compliance with all applicable environmental regulations,” said Granta Y. Nakayama, the EPA’s assistant administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
“People know the value of clean water and air. This settlement represents a significant effort by two major companies to bring their waste handling operations into compliance,” EPA Regional Administrator Richard E. Greene said. “We are pleased with these efforts, which will ensure better air and water near the farms.”
The government’s complaints, filed in conjunction with the settlements, allege that Seaboard Foods and PIC USA contaminated the groundwater near five farms in Oklahoma, and failed to properly investigate or remediate the source of the contamination, in violation of an EPA Order issued under RCRA. As part of this settlement, the companies have agreed to clean and close leaking lagoons, implement measures to ensure any future leaking pipes or lagoons are identified and addressed promptly, and take steps to ensure that the area groundwater is cleaned up. In addition, Seaboard Foods and PIC USA have agreed that when manure is used for crop fertilization purposes, it will be applied at appropriate rates, to prevent future soil or groundwater contamination.
As part of a separate settlement, Seaboard Foods will be required to implement various erosion control measures at 16 farms to prevent any future runoff of soils and sediments to nearby rivers or streams, and to establish protective buffer zones around sensitive wetland areas at 17 of its farms. Seaboard Foods further certified its compliance with the continuous release reporting requirements of CERCLA and EPCRA at all of its 239 farms.
The Department of Justice lodged both consent decrees in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. The consent decrees will be subject to a 30-day public comment period and subsequent judicial approval and are available on the Justice Department website.