ADEM considers fining Tyson

A legal notice from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management in last week’s issue did not go unnoticed. ADEM proposes to issue a consent order to Tyson Farms, Inc. for effluent and late report violations at the Blountsville chicken processing plant. Tyson’s Blountsville plant discharges into Graves Creek, which runs over Mardis Mill Falls, and ultimately into the Locust Fork River. ADEM is considering fining the company $27,000 and would require it “to submit an engineering report, including a compliance plan, progress reports, and a certification of compliance.”

ADEM’s report covers a period from April 2018 to December 2019 and notes 34 violations of pollutant discharges in excess of the permitted amounts. In May 2018, the company was issued a notice of violation for “biological oxygen demand, total ammonia nitrogen, and total Kjeldahl nitrogen effluent violations.” The report also states the company submitted “several E. coli results” as too numerous to count. The full report can be viewed on ADEM’s website at

Nelson Brook, staff scientist at the Black Warrior Riverkeeper, a watchdog organization that monitors the health of the Black Warrior River basin (which includes the Locust Fork River), says the plant has been in violation of its permit regarding toxic discharge levels for a while. He believes the violations are “ongoing.”

He also said the proposed fine “is absolutely not enough. This is yet again an ADEM slap on the wrist. Toxicity failures are a serious issue. Wastewater with the ability to harm or kill aquatic life has been discharged into Graves Creek, Mardis Mill Falls, and the Locust Fork for quite some time. Fining one of the largest chicken producers in the world such a small amount sends a weak message, doesn’t deter future violations, and basically condones Tyson’s behavior.”

Brook expressed dismay at the time given to the company to comply. “The public has 30 days to submit comments. Tyson has 90 days to prepare and submit an engineering report. Tyson must submit quarterly progress reports. ADEM is giving Tyson a ridiculously long 730 days to comply with the toxicity requirements of their permit. It allows Tyson cover for continuing to ‘figure out’ what the toxicity problem is, all the while shielding them from toxicity compliance obligations under their permit for two years.”

The public has 30 days from April 8 to send ADEM written comments, as well as request a hearing. Comments should be mailed to the attention of Jeffrey W. Kitchens, Chief of the Water Division, P.O. Box 301463, Montgomery, AL 36130-1463. Include the permit number AL0001449 on all correspondence.