Foster Farms is being fined $44,000 for releasing untreated chicken processing wastewater from its processing facility in Kelso, Washington, on June 6, to the Three Rivers Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant, and not reporting it in a timely manner as required.

The treatment plant was overwhelmed by the volume of the waste and some of it reached the Columbia River. State water quality regulations require Foster Farms to pre-treat its wastewater before it is discharged to the Three Rivers treatment plant, the Washington Department of Ecology stated in a press release. The event was a violation of Foster Farms water quality permit.

Three Rivers treatment plant operators found large amounts of grease and feathers throughout their plant. They removed nearly one cubic yard of feathers and other chicken processing waste from the plant’s inlet screen.   

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In addition to the fine, Foster Farms was ordered to update its operation and maintenance manual to identify how it will protect the Three Rivers Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant from these types of discharges in the future.

While Foster Farms has 30 days to appeal the penalties, the company stated the importance of environmental responsibility and that future steps are being taken to prevent similar issues.

“Environmental responsibility is important to all of us at Foster Farms. During the installation of new wastewater treatment equipment at our Kelso, Washington, facility, an unplanned discharge occurred. While employees worked to correct the treatment issue on site immediately, the company regrets that notification was inadvertently delayed to the Three Rivers Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant. Foster Farms has an excellent record of permit compliance and self-reporting. The company is reinforcing notification procedures throughout facility operations. We have also taken steps to prevent future wastewater issues. Foster Farms intends to pay the penalty,” Foster Farms said in a statement.