North Texas industry fined $1.9 million by EPA
WASHINGTON — Federal authorities fined a Collin County-based egg producer $1.9 million Wednesday, accusing the company of improperly disposing of chicken manure and polluting streams in Texas and Oklahoma.
The fine assessed on Mahard Egg Farms Inc., one of the nation’s biggest egg producers, is the largest penalty in U.S. history involving a concentrated animal feeding operation.
As part of a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice, Mahard will spend $3.5 million to bring its facilities into compliance with the federal Clean Water Act.
According to a complaint filed in U.S. federal court in Dallas, Mahard spread manure and wastewater from egg-washing and chicken carcasses on fields surrounding its facilities. The company has three facilities in Texas — in Prosper, Aubrey and Chillicothe — plus four in Oklahoma.
At several sites, Mahard kept abandoned manure lagoons, the complaint said.
The EPA said the fields contained elevated levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, which flowed into nearby waterways with rainwater runoff. So far, there are no reports of groundwater contamination.
As part of a consent decree, the company agreed to close and properly dispose of wastewater and soil from retention ponds, monitor the groundwater and construct buffers to prevent further runoff.
Contaminated soil will be hauled off and spread on pastures away from streams.
“Ensuring the lawful handling of [animal feeding operations’] wastes will mean cleaner streams and waterways in Texas and Oklahoma, which is important for aquatic habitats, safe drinking water and public recreation,” said Ignacia Moreno, head of the Natural Resources Division at the Department of Justice.
Jim Bradbury, the company’s lawyer, called the penalties overly harsh and said they reflect an agenda to aggressively pursue violations against animal feeding operations.
“It’s shocking to me, the zeal with which they pursued it,” Bradbury said. “I can apply as much commercial fertilizer as I want, but because we’re dealing with animal agriculture, we’re going to put a target on you.”
This makes you wonder what the gas industry is thinking about this and when they will get their fines for making North Texas one of the dirtiest places to live.