Tyson Foods sentenced for 2014 fish kill incident

Tyson Foods was sentenced to pay a fine of $2 million, serve two years of probation and pay $500,000 to aid with environmental initiatives after an accidental discharge that killed fish in Missouri waterways.

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(Jason Morrison | Freeimages.com)
(Jason Morrison | Freeimages.com)

Tyson Foods’ poultry unit was sentenced in federal court to pay a $2 million criminal fine, serve two years of probation, and pay $500,000 to directly remedy harm caused from an accidental discharge in Monett, Missouri, that occurred in 2014.

The United States Department of Justice announced the action of the federal court in Springfield, Missouri, on February 27.

Tyson Foods had earlier agreed to the conditions of the sentence in September 2017. The company, at the time, admitted to and took full responsibility for the incident.

“An unfortunate mistake was made by our company in May 2014 that resulted in the accidental release of an animal feed ingredient into the City of Monett’s wastewater treatment system. The release disrupted the treatment system and resulted in a fish kill in a nearby stream,” Tyson Foods stated.

“We deeply regret the mistake that was made and have taken corrective action to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We’re committed to doing better in all areas of our business, especially when it comes to protecting the environment.”

According to court records, Tyson’s conviction arose out of a spill at its feed mill in Aurora, Missouri, where it mixed ingredients to produce chicken feed. One ingredient was a liquid supplement called “Alimet,” which is a very strong acid with a pH of less than one. In May 2014, the tank used to store Alimet at the Aurora feed mill sprang a leak. Tyson had the spilled substance transported to its Monett plant where the Alimet was then discharged into the sewers and flowed into the City of Monett municipal waste water treatment plant. The Alimet killed bacteria used to reduce ammonia in discharges from the treatment plant. As a result, more ammonia was released from the plant into Clear Creek, and approximately 108,000 fish were killed, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Tyson also agreed to retain an independent, third-party auditor to examine environmental compliance at Tyson facilities across the country; conduct specialized environmental training at all of its poultry processing plants, hatcheries, feed mills, rendering plants, and wastewater treatment plants; and implement improved policies and procedures to address the circumstances that gave rise to these violations, the press release stated.

“Tyson’s $2.5 million fine and restitution payment reflects the seriousness of this offense and our commitment to protect Missouri’s natural resources,” stated U.S. Attorney Timothy A. Garrison for the Western District of Missouri.

Tyson facility a former Clean Water Award winner

Prior to the 2014 incident, the Monett complex had been recognized as a leader in good environmental stewardship. In 2009, Tyson’s Monett facility was recognized as a recipient of a Clean Water Award at the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association’s Environmental Management Seminar. 

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