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Thursday, June 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Slaughterhouse Dinged|for River Dumping

(CN) - The Kiryas Joel Poultry Processing Plant and meat market will pay $330,000 to settle claims that it violated the Clean Water Act by dumping chicken parts, fat and other slaughterhouse waste into storm drains and tributaries of the Ramapo River, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney and Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday.

Kiryas Joel is a village comprised mostly of Hasidic Jews near Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Hasidic Jews strictly observe the Torah and its commandments, and have practiced an orthodox brand of Judaism since being founded in Eastern Europe in the 1700s.

The Justice Department filed - and simultaneously settled - a lawsuit in federal court in White Plains, N.Y. on Thursday, alleging that the village's chicken processing plant and meat market have violated the Clean Water Act since at least 2008 by discharging wastewater from the plant into storm drains that flow into two tributaries of the Ramapo River.

According to the government's 20-page complaint, the wastewater discharges included slaughtered chicken parts, salt, fats, oils and grease. The plant also sent some of the waste to the Kiryas Joel water treatment plant, and coerced the plant to dump partially treated and untreated waste into the streams as well.

Neither the slaughterhouse nor the Kiryas Joel Meat Market bothered to get the necessary permits to discharge industrial wastewater into storm drains, the government said.

In the settlement, the plant and market admitted to taking "inadequate steps to prevent spills of untreated wastewater" and to not obtaining proper industrial discharge permits. They also admitted to sending polluted water to the Kiryas Joel treatment plant in violation of that plant's permit.

The companies will pay $330,000 in civil penalties to settle the case. They also agreed to ongoing monitoring by the EPA, and will submit emergency operation plans and a corrective plan of action to ensure the discharges don't occur again.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the companies had "flouted" the Clean Water Act with their illegal dumping.

"For years, the defendants flouted the law by repeatedly discharging waste from their poultry slaughterhouse into the waters of the United States. Today's consent decree will ensure that the defendants do not resume these illegal practices in the future and requires them to pay a significant financial penalty for their misconduct," Bharara said.

EPA regional director Judith Enck agreed.

"From disposing of chicken parts and fats directly into storm drains and sewers, to discharging animal waste into Ramapo River tributaries, this poultry processing plant has a long history of violating the Clean Water Act," Enck said. "This legal agreement and fine will help protect the Ramapo River."

The public has 30 days to comment on the settlement before it will be submitted to the court for approval.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tomoko Onozawa handled the case for the government.

Nestled in New York's Orange County, Kiryas Joel residents follow a strict interpretation of orthodox Judaism that sometimes clashes with state and federal statutes.

Kiryas Joel settled a lawsuit earlier this year filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union which called the village's separation of the sexes in public areas discriminatory.

Its slaughterhouses face a similar dilemma in aligning the dictates of halakha (or Jewish law) with those of the EPA.

Like other kosher slaughterhouses, Kiryas Joel uses large amounts of coarse salt to remove blood from meat before packaging, and Orange County's testing found that this practice spiked salinity levels in nearby waters, the local Times Record-Herald noted.

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