EPA seeks input on proposal to reduce pollution from meat processing plants

Public comment will be accepted for 60 days
calendar icon 19 December 2023
clock icon 2 minute read

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced a proposed regulation that would revise wastewater discharge standards for facilities that process meat and poultry products. Many of these facilities are located near communities with environmental justice concerns that have bodies of water impaired by nutrient pollution. The agency’s proposal would leverage the latest pollution control technologies to cut the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and other pollutants discharged to the nation’s waters by approximately 100 million pounds of pollutants per year, improving water quality for downstream communities and ecosystems.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to following law and the best available science to safeguard communities from pollution,” said EPA assistant administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “EPA’s proposal to reduce water pollution from meat and poultry processing facilities will prevent millions of pounds of pollutants from entering our nation’s waters.”

The Clean Water Act requires EPA to revise industry-wide wastewater treatment limits—called effluent limitation guidelines or ELGs—to keep pace with innovations in pollution control technology. The first ELGs for facilities that process meat and poultry products were issued in 1974 and the last revision was in 2004. ELGs are based on the performance of demonstrated wastewater treatment technologies, and they are intended to represent the greatest pollutant reductions that are economically achievable for an entire industry.

As EPA announced in its September 2021 Preliminary Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 15, the agency completed a detailed study of facilities that process meat and poultry products, leading to its decision to revise the existing effluent regulation for these facilities.

EPA’s proposed regulation would establish updated technology-based pollution limits that are affordable and achievable using existing demonstrated technologies. Additionally, implementation of these ELGs includes flexibilities to achieve the established limits using different technologies or operational strategies. This flexibility serves as an incentive for facilities and control technology vendors to develop even lower-cost compliance options.

The agency’s proposal also seeks comment on more stringent ELGs for these facilities. EPA will be accepting public comment on the proposed regulation for 60 days upon its publication in the Federal Register. 

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