Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has filed a lawsuit against Tyson Foods, alleging the company unlawfully dumped untreated industrial wastewater into a Southwest Missouri stream that led to the deaths of at least 100,000 fish. Koster's lawsuit includes six counts against Tyson for the alleged pollution of state waters and violations of Missouri's hazardous waste laws.

According to Koster, beginning on May 16, the Tyson Foods facility at Monett, Missouri, discharged wastewater containing a highly acidic feed supplement into Monett's municipal sewer system. The discharge allegedly caused the city's biological wastewater treatment system to fail, and contaminated water containing a high level of ammonia flowed into Clear Creek, which Koster believes led to the fish kill.

Tyson acknowledges incident at Monett facility

Tyson Foods has acknowledged the incident, and issued the following statement: “We’re sorry about what happened and have started trying to make things right. Through newspaper ads, we’re publicly apologizing to the people of Monett and Pierce City, we’ve met with some community leaders and we’ve asked to meet with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to see how we can help improve Clear Creek. We’ve also taken a hard look at how we manage environmental matters at Monett and are improving our processes because we don’t want this to ever happen again.”

The lawsuit seeks penalties against Tyson, compensation for the damage to the stream and reimbursement for the state’s costs in investigating the incident.

"Missouri's waterways are among our state's most important natural resources," Koster said. "Tyson's conduct threatened the vitality of Clear Creek as a resource for Southwest Missouri. Tyson Foods must be held accountable for dumping pollution into the waterways of Southwest Missouri, and this conduct must not happen again."

Letter from Tyson apologizing for 'accidental release'

The newspaper ads referenced in Tyson's statement contain a letter signed by Tyson employees David Young, Monett complex manager; Becky Thomas, complex environmental manager; Ronnie Wooten, Monett manager, live production; Travis Scarrow, plant manager; and Kent Adams, feed mill manager.

The letter reads: “At Tyson Foods, we strive for excellence, but like most people, we’re not perfect and sometimes we make mistakes. And when we do make mistakes our company culture holds us accountable to do two things: do whatever we can to make it right and learn from the experience.

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“That is the situation we faced with the accidental release last month of a feed additive into Monett’s water treatment system from our Monett complex.

“We can’t reverse what happened, so making it right has to begin now. First, we offer our sincerest apology to the citizens of Monett and Pierce City, the great State of Missouri and our own team members who also live in the communities affected.

“Water is a critical natural resource and we work to protect it at all of our locations. We will be having a conversation with Missouri Department of Natural Resources about how we might assist with improvements of Clear Creek. In addition, we’ll be looking at opportunities to partner with non-government organizations that work on ecology projects in Missouri to address issues in the creek. As we learn more and have these discussions, we’ll then be able to better determine how we can help resolve these issues. We’re committed to making amends.

"In the meantime, this we do know: Monett and Southwest Missouri are important to our company and to our team members who call it home. We pledge to continue to look for opportunities to invest in the communities and the people that make up this region.

"Most importantly, we will do everything in our power to make sure this mistake will never be repeated. We have scrutinized our protocols and processes, and we are improving training efforts.

"We have a long, proud history in Monett that has benefited its citizens and our company. It’s our hope that this can continue and together we can build a bright future.”