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Food Processor Fined $390,000 for Industrial Wastewater ‘Overload’

A maker of salads and other refrigerated foods has agreed to pay a $390,000 civil penalty to settle allegations that its Kansas processing plant overloaded the city’s wastewater treatment system with millions of gallons of untreated industrial wastewater.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the releases from the Orval Kent Food Company’s plant in Baxter Springs, Kan., caused pollution along a 22-mile-long section of the Spring River in southeast Kansas and northeast Oklahoma.

Under terms of a consent decree lodged Monday by the U.S. Department of Justice in Kansas City, Kan., the company agreed to spend an additional $32,500 on a project to re-stock fish in or near the watershed of the Spring River.

Orval Kent was issued an administrative compliance order by the EPA in February 2008 after an inspection of the Baxter Springs’ municipal wastewater treatment plant found that the company’s facility was routinely overloading the city’s treatment system. The EPA found that as a result of Orval Kent’s discharges, the city was unable to comply with the terms of its wastewater permit.

After the EPA issued the order, the company installed new wastewater treatment equipment and changed its manufacturing processes to reduce waste material in the facility’s wastewater, the agency said.

Discharges from the Baxter Springs treatment system flow into the Spring River, which flows south from the city for about a mile before crossing the state line into northeast Oklahoma, where it continues to flow several miles through tribal lands of the Shawnee Tribe of Eastern Oklahoma.

EPA’s lawsuit, filed with its proposed consent decree, alleges several complaints from residents about odors and reports of raw, green sewage floating downstream in the Spring River into Oklahoma. The Shawnee Tribe has also complained about sewage floating into its territory.

As part of the settlement, Orval Kent agreed to conduct monitoring and reporting of its wastewater discharges to detect trends and help avoid future violations of the Clean Water Act.

The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval before it becomes final.

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