EPA investigates Tyson’s chemical pollution accident in Missouri

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a new a criminal investigation into a chemical spill in Monett, Mo. from a wastewater facility operated by Tyson Foods. If the EPA charges Tyson Foods, the company could face fines and loss of lucrative government contracts.

“We are cooperating with the Environmental Protection Agency but cannot predict the outcome of its investigation at this time,” the company noted in a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The wastewater discharged in May polluted water in Clear Creek killing an estimated 100,000 fish along a six mile stretch and created odor issues at the facility. The EPA said it issued a search warrant on Tyson’s Monett facility looking for documents and records as part of a criminal investigation into the incident.

The wastewater emitted by the Tyson plant contained Alimet, which is a liquid animal feed supplement, from another company facility in Aurora, Mo. The polluted water was discharged to the city of Monett's sewer system. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said the discharge caused operational problems at the city's wastewater treatment facility.

The DNR cited Tyson with a notice of violation for the fish kill. The agency also cited the city of Monett for failing "to operate and maintain facilities to comply with the Missouri Clean Water Law and applicable permit conditions".

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster also filed a lawsuit against Tyson Foods for "unlawful dumping of untreated industrial wastewater" that led to the fish kill in Clear Creek.

Missouri’s lawsuit alleges six violations and seeks penalties, compensation for damage to the stream and reimbursement for the state’s investigation costs.

Tyson assumed responsibility for the accident in May issuing an apology through an ad in the local newspaper. Tyson noted in the ad that the company cannot reverse what happened, but the meat company said it plans to make it right.

“Water is a critical natural resource and we work to protect it at all of our locations. ... We’ll be looking at opportunities to partner with non-government organizations that work on ecology projects in Missouri to address issues in the creek. As we learn more and have these discussions, we’ll then be able to better determine how we can help resolve these issues. We’re committed to making amends,” Tyson management noted in the public apology which ran in the local newspapers following the accident.

Tyson said they met with some community leaders and asked to meet with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to see how they can help improve Clear Creek.

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"We’re sorry about what happened and have started trying to make things right," Tyson spokesman Worth Sparkman told The City Wire in May.

“We’ve also taken a hard look at how we manage environmental matters at Monett and are improving our processes because we don’t want this to ever happen again," Sparkman added.

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