GREELEY (AP) — Wastewater from two Greeley slaughterhouses exceeded safety limits for five years as it flowed into a South Platte River tributary before the meat-processing company started meeting discharge standards in January, according to Colorado’s top water quality official.
State Water Quality Division Director Patrick Pfaltzgraff told KMGH-TV that it took that long for Swift Beef Co. to come into compliance with their discharge permit. He acknowledged that Swift, part of Brazil-based JBS S.A., the world’s largest meat-processing corporation, has not been fined for the ongoing violations.
He added that a review is underway into how the case was handled.
“We’ve already been engaged in doing that in terms of how this was allowed to go on for five years,” Pfaltzgraff said. “We don’t see that as acceptable.”
The regulator’s comments support some of the allegations in a lawsuit against Swift filed by two advocacy groups in May.
Swift operates a treatment plant on the creek that receives wastewater from a beef plant that processes between 3,000 and 6,000 animals a day, and a lamb slaughterhouse that processes 2,500 animals a day, according to the lawsuit.
Center for Biological Diversity and Food and Water Watch allege in the lawsuit that the 3 to 4 million gallons of wastewater discharged daily into Lone Tree Creek exceeded limits for ammonia, nitrogen and suspended solids from 2014-2018.
The wastewater includes animal fat, meat, blood, E. coli, ammonia and excrement that must be treated before it is discharged into the creek, which feeds into the South Platte River about a mile away.
Mike and Renee Geha, who live near the facility’s water holding pond, said a siren would go off day and night at the facility, sometimes blaring for hours. They said those alerts have now ceased, but they never received an explanation after asking authorities what was wrong.
“We just wondered if we were safe out here,” Mike Geha said.
The lawsuit alleges that Swift violated its discharge permit’s limits for ammonia, nitrogen and suspended solids. The water also repeatedly failed tests meant to ensure it’s not toxic to aquatic life, according to the lawsuit.
Swift must file a response to the lawsuit by next month.
Company spokeswoman Nikki Richardson said in a statement to the television station that JBS has made a substantial investment to improve its wastewater facility’s environmental performance.
“This type of technology is the most effective way to minimize industrial wastewater, and it took time to get right – longer than we would have liked – but we have remained in communication with our partners at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to share our progress,” Richardson said.
Information from: KMGH-TV,