EPA sued over lack of revised slaughterhouse pollution standards

Photo by Matthias Zomer on Pexels.com

Tyler Chalfant | December 26th, 2019

Twelve public interest groups sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this month for its decision not to update slaughterhouse water pollution standards. An estimated 4,700 out of roughly 5,000 slaughterhouses nationwide discharge polluted water into public waterways, and have been identified by the EPA as the largest industrial source of nitrogen pollution. 

The Clean Water Act requires the EPA to review its standards for slaughterhouses each year to keep up with the latest technological advances, but the standards for discharging polluted water have not been updated for 15 years. These standards don’t require slaughterhouses to send their waste to sewage treatment plants before discharging into waterways, and according to critics haven’t adjusted to pollution-control technologies beyond the mid-1970s.

Many slaughterhouses are operating under even older rules, from 1974 or 1975. Three-quarters of meatpacking plants have been found to violate their pollution limits, though enforcement and penalties are rare. 

One meatpacking plant in Ottumwa, Iowa, that spilled 20,000 gallons of toxic waste into a sewer line running into the Des Moines River back in 2014, has frequently violated Clean Water Act limitations on nitrogen and ammonia pollution. 

The groups currently suing the EPA claim that the federal agency has also violated the law by not updating its standards. An attorney for one of the plaintiffs, the Environmental Integrity Project, Sylvia Lam said that some plants have already installed the technology to lessen their pollution, and by not requiring the same standards industry-wide, the “EPA is rewarding dirty slaughterhouses at the expense of the public.

EPA faces lawsuits for animal confinement air pollution

A pig at St Werburghs City Farm in the United Kingdom. (Ed Mitchell/Flickr)
A pig at St Werburghs City Farm in the United Kingdom. (Ed Mitchell/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | January 29, 2015

Two lawsuits were brought against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday alleging that the group isn’t doing enough to prevent air pollution caused by large animal confinement facilities.

The lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. were brought about by a coalition of eight groups including the  Environmental Integrity Project, the Humane Society of the United States, Center for Food Safety, Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Clean Wisconsin, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, and the Association of Irritated Residents (represented by the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment). The coalition says that the lack of regulation by the EPA has allowed factory farms to pollute the air and threaten public health.

Specifically the lawsuits pertain to petitions filed in 2009 and 2011. The 2009 petition was filed by the Humane Society of the United States and called for concentrated animal feeding lots – or CAFOs – to be categorized as a source of pollution under the Clean Air Act and for new standards to be enforced on new and existing CAFOs. The Environmental Integrity Project filed the 2011 petition and sought health-based standards for ammonia emissions. The lawsuit asks for the EPA to respond to these petitions within 90 days.

A spokesman for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said that beef producers have made efforts to reduce pollution without government intervention and between 2005 and 2011 were able cut emissions in water by 10 percent and greenhouse gas production by 2 percent. However, Iowa Pork Producers and an Iowa State University professor say that the link connecting CAFOs to health hazards is inconclusive.

Branstad in Hot, Dirty Water with Environmental Groups

Photo by Dylan; Flickr

Environmental groups are accusing Governor Terry Branstad of favoring agricultural practices over water quality and the environment.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Environmental Integrity Project, and the Iowa Sierra Club filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking documents about negotiations between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Continue reading

Report: Air quality some factory farms worse than in most polluted U.S. cities


Credit: Compassion in World Farming, Flickr

It’s not just city-dwellers who battle air pollution each day.

Those living near some factory farms in places like Iowa breath in levels of pollutants far above occupational safety guidelines and worse than what many city industrial workers face, according to a new report from the Environmental Integrity Project, a nonpartisan research group comprised of former EPA attorneys.

The data comes from a two-year Purdue University study, which was verified by the EPA.

“No other major industry in the U.S. would be permitted to pollute at these levels without EPA oversight,” said Tarah Heinzen, attorney and author of the report, in a release.  Continue reading