Aberdeen beef plant meets city’s requirements for wastewater monitoring

Farm Forum

Northern Beef Packers has met the city of Aberdeen’s deadline to install wastewater monitoring equipment, thereby avoiding a $1,000-a-day fine.

Sampling and flow-metering equipment, as well as a sampling shelter, were installed last week, and the paperwork documenting their functionality was received on March 7 by city officials, said Adam Altman, city attorney. The deadline was March 8.

Additionally, the beef plant has paid its $1,000 fine, which was imposed Feb. 22 at the time of the compliance order, he said.

“They did everything that we asked them and more,” Altman said.

Northern Beef had 20 business days to submit an engineer’s assessment of the lagoon, including the status of aerators that were not operational and gates and weirs that were not installed. Northern Beef submitted that report on March 7, 11 business days before the deadline.

The report shows that levels of pollutants in the lagoon are well below permitted amounts, Altman said. While there has been at least one aerator not working, it has not impeded the treatment of the wastewater, he said.

There has been no danger to the environment at any time because the beef plant has not yet begun pumping wastewater to the Aberdeen City Treatment Facility, he said. The administrative compliance order, fine and the threat of a daily fine were necessary to head off potential problems, Altman said at the time of the issuance of the order.

As the Northern Beef lagoons south of the plant become full, the wastewater will be pumped through pipes to the City Wastewater Treatment Facility for final treatment. The wastewater must have low levels of pollutants for the plant to be able to effectively handle it, city officials have said.

City staff will still need to work with Northern Beef on some of the violations cited in the administrative compliance order, Altman said. Not all of the gates and weirs (barriers not unlike a dam) have been installed. Because the lagoons are frozen on the surface, it would be difficult to install gates that are under a layer of ice.

“It doesn’t make sense to make them break the ice when it will be so much easier after we have a thaw,” he said.

Altman said he was pleased to see the engineer’s report which noted low levels of B.O.D. (measures of organic pollution in the water) in the lagoons.

“It is one thing to get it done by the deadline, another thing to get it done early and another thing to have good news on top of that,” Altman said.

City Manager Lynn Lander said in a written statement, “The city of Aberdeen has had a positive working relationship with Northern Beef Packers. When you consider the magnitude of their building construction and operations, you can expect issues beyond most new business openings. The current compliance issues, which have been resolved, are to prepare them for future industrial waste discharges to the city. Northern Beef Packers has yet to release any industrial water to the city.”