Environmental Groups Deliver Historic Clean Water Settlement with World’s Second Largest Chicken Producer
This week, Environment Florida and the Sierra Club are announcing a $1.43 million citizen suit penalty against Pilgrim’s Pride, the largest chicken producer in the United States, for dumping millions of pounds of toxic chemicals into the Suwannee River over the last five years. This penalty, the biggest citizen suit penalty of its kind in Florida’s history, will have a tangible, positive impact on the Suwannee River, which offers some of the best backwater paddling in Florida, as well as several state parks and 62 freshwater springs.
The Pilgrim’s Pride plant in question is a chicken processing plant located on the Middle Suwannee River in Live Oak, Florida, that has violated the Clean Air Act for 1,377 days between 2012 and 2017, directly dumping toxic chemicals into the river in quantities greater than it is permitted to release. In 2014 alone, the plant released 379,641 pounds of toxic chemicals, which led to low levels of oxygen in the river and high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, a recipe for toxic algal blooms.
These levels of pollution clearly threatened the Suwannee’s status as an “outstanding Florida water,” so Environment Florida and the Sierra Club filed suit to take on these polluters and fight for a cleaner Suwannee. This week, we are proud to announce a historic settlement that will ensure a cleaner Suwannee for current and future generations of Floridians. The suit includes:
- A $1.43 million civil penalty, with $1.3 million going towards a Sustainable Farming Fund that will support agricultural best practices to improve soil, groundwater, and surface water quality
- Stipulated penalties for future wastewater violations and failures to implement environmental upgrades
- Studies and upgrades of the plant’s water treatment system, meant to analyze and eliminate the discharge of toxic chemicals
It’s exciting to be able to celebrate this historic victory in the Suwannee, but there is still much work to be done to protect our nation’s waterways from corporate agribusiness pollution. For example, this year saw the largest dead zone in history in the Gulf of Mexico, the result of unsustainable farming practices and runoff in the Mississippi basin. Much of this can be attributed to large, multinational agribusiness corporations like Pilgrim’s Pride: according to Environment America’s Corporate Agribusiness and the Fouling of America’s Waterways report, the US supply chain of Pilgrim’s Pride’s parent corporation, JBS, generated 45 million tons of manure and dumped more than 37 million pounds of toxic pollution into waterways from 2010 to 2014.
That’s why Environment America and our partner organizations are working to fight corporate agribusiness. In addition to our report Corporate Agribusiness report, we are working now to hold Tyson Foods accountable for its unsustainable farming practices. You can find more by visiting our website.