Valley Proteins fined $540,000 for violating environment law

The company discharged pollutants into the Transquaking River
calendar icon 19 September 2022
clock icon 2 minute read

Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) announced a settlement with Valley Proteins, an Eastern Shore poultry processing facility that uses poultry industry refuse to make food for other animals.

The consent decree settles the lawsuit filed by the Office of Attorney General (OAG) on behalf of MDE in the Circuit Court for Dorchester County on February 2, 2022.

The lawsuit alleged that Valley Proteins had repeatedly discharged ammonia, phosphorus and other pollutants into the Transquaking River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, for well over a year. Valley Proteins’ illegal discharge of pollutants was in violation of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit and State water pollution laws, and included failure to implement stormwater pollution plan best management practices, numerous unauthorized discharges of wastewater, sludge, and solids, and violations of its air emissions permit.

“Valley Proteins repeatedly discharged harmful pollutants – including nitrogen, phosphorus and fecal coliform – into a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay,” said Attorney General Brian Frosh. “These violations of our environmental laws threatened fragile ecosystems and our treasured Chesapeake Bay. This settlement and hefty penalty sends a strong message to Valley Proteins and others that they are not free to pollute Maryland’s waters and air.”

“When the Valley Proteins facility’s operations threatened the quality of our water and our air the Maryland Department of the Environment took an enforcement action to assign accountability and to deter future violations,” said Maryland Secretary of the Environment Horacio Tablada. “We are pleased to now have a strong, enforceable agreement that will allow this important facility that serves the agriculture community to continue to operate while achieving environmental compliance and helping us to meet our water and air quality goals.”

The Valley Proteins plant discharges into a tributary of the Transquaking River, which flows into Fishing Bay, an offshoot of the Chesapeake Bay. The rendering plant is a significant source of nutrient pollution to the Transquaking River. MDE inspections from January 2019 through January 2022 found numerous violations, including unauthorized discharges of wastewater, sludge and raw chicken parts, and failure to take steps to prevent runoff of poultry solids. MDE inspectors also noted dozens of air pollution violations caused by malfunctioning odor-control equipment.

The consent decree requires Valley Proteins to correct stormwater violations, conduct a groundwater investigation to determine if the wastewater lagoons are leaking pollutants and, if leaking, to stop the leak and remediate any contamination. It also requires the company to upgrade its existing wastewater treatment system in order to address effluent violations, conduct stormwater sampling and investigate and implement improvements to address odour pollution beyond the facility’s property line.

Additionally, Valley Proteins is required to pay a civil penalty of $540,000.

Melanie Epp

Melanie Epp is a freelance agricultural journalist from Ontario, Canada.

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