Aberdeen beef plant fined for wastewater violation

Farm Forum

Despite repeated warnings by Aberdeen city officials, Northern Beef Packers has failed to install necessary wastewater monitoring equipment, resulting in a fine and administrative compliance order.

The order, sent by Aberdeen Wastewater Treatment Facility Superintendent Pete Hesla, requires Northern Beef to install sampling and flow-metering equipment and construct a sampling shelter within 10 days.

The plant has been fined $1,000, said city attorney Adam Altman. Failure to complete the projects within 10 business days will result in a $1,000 daily fine every day after the deadline. The deadline is 10 business days from the order issue date, which was Feb. 22.

“This is more than a slap on the hand,” Altman said. “We have issued notices of violation before, but this is the first action that involves a fine and potential fines. We are escalating the actions to ensure compliance.”

David Palmer, Northern Beef CEO, said he had no comment when contacted by the American News on Feb. 26.

At this point, there is no danger to the environment, Altman said.

The beef plant, which has been slaughtering cattle since October, has been sending wastewater to its lagoons south of the plant, Altman said. The wastewater contains blood, fat, cattle waste, wash water and cleaning chemicals. The lagoons have been filling up, but no wastewater has been sent to the city of Aberdeen Wastewater Treatment Plant for final treatment, he said.

“It is difficult to know how full the (beef plant) lagoons are because of the snow,” Altman said. “But they are getting fuller. We are trying to head off a potential problem.”

When Northern Beef does send its wastewater to the Aberdeen plant, the water needs to meet pretreatment guidelines or it could overwhelm the plant’s treatment capability, Altman said. That could result in the Aberdeen plant having to release polluted water into Moccasin Creek, he said.

At full production, Northern Beef will send 1 million gallons of wastewater a day to the Aberdeen plant, a plant that normally treats 2.3 million to 2.8 million gallons of domestic wastewater a day, he said.

Altman said additional problems could include slowdowns at the Aberdeen plant, damage to equipment and fines assessed to the city of Aberdeen for any discharge of pollutants into the creek.

In addition to failing to install monitoring equipment, Northern Beef has violated its wastewater permit in several other ways, according to the administrative order. These violations include:

· Failing to have installed gates and weirs at the lagoon.

· Failing to have employed a Class II wastewater operator.

· Failing to install and operate functional lagoon aerators.

· Failing to have installed a flow meter on the gravity return line.

The plant has 20 days to submit “an engineer’s assessment of the functionality and operational capability of the lagoon, both at the present time and since NBP initiated discharge to the lagoon,” according to the administrative order.

Altman said the city has been working with Northern Beef on wastewater compliance for many months and issued violation notices to the plant on or about Dec. 4, Jan. 6 and Jan. 27. The problems were supposed to be fixed by Feb. 8, he said.

“This is nothing new,” Altman said. “It has been going on for some time. The city is really disappointed in Northern Beef, … their approach to wastewater and their approach to correcting prior violations.”