OUR VIEW: Meatpacking industry cannot seem to play by rules in SDAs memories of our own environmental debacle still linger here in Mitchell, South Dakotans may be seeing another blatant case of pollution of the people’s property.
By: Editorial board, The Daily Republic
As memories of our own environmental debacle still linger here in Mitchell, South Dakotans may be seeing another blatant case of pollution of the people’s property.
The John Morrell meatpacking plant in Sioux Falls is under investigation from state and federal officials for alleged violations of pollution limits on the Big Sioux River.
The case stems from the possibility that John Morrell has been discharging excessive slaughter waste from its plant into the Big Sioux and that the plant has not complied with conditions of its surface water discharge permit for some two years.
If these allegations prove true, it’ll be another stain on the meatpacking industry, which, at least in South Dakota, cannot seem to play by the rules when it comes to environmental protection.
Six years ago, Dakota Pork Industries Inc., which was then operating in Mitchell, was charged with blatant abuse of environmental protection laws. In 2006, the president of the company, Carl Kuehne, pleaded guilty in federal court to the charges, basically admitting that the company tried to conceal the fact that its wastewater discharges contained pollutants that could harm the city of Mitchell’s wastewater treatment plant.
Dakota Pork employees, it was learned, tampered with a device that monitored its wastewater, leading to inaccurate reports by the city. The company also failed to pretreat its wastewater, as required the terms of a permit issued by the city.
There are similarities at play here. In addition to the pollution accusations, the plant also is being investigated for mismanaging a chemical accident program, according to the Argus Leader of Sioux Falls. The newspaper also reported that John Morrell received four warning letters that it was violating terms of its discharge permit.
In the Mitchell case, Dakota Pork was ordered to pay a $50,000 fine for wastewater violations committed at its plant. It also paid back the city of Mitchell $175,000 in restitution.
At the time, we didn’t feel the $50,000 fine was large enough, especially considering the obvious disregard for environmental care, displayed through the admitted tampering of monitoring devices.
If the allegations against John Morrell are proven true, we hope that company faces steep fines and penalties.
Dumping waste into streams, rivers and lakes is an outdated, barbaric practice and those who do it knowingly should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Dakota Pork knew what it was doing, and it is alleged that John Morrell did, too.
If the investigation in Sioux Falls shows intentional negligence, the company should pay heavily — not only as punishment for its environmental sins, but also as an obvious deterrent for companies that may be doing those same intentional crimes.