Manure discharge from Smithfield pig farms raises environmental concerns – report

A sculpture adorns the Smithfield Foods pig slaughterhouse in Smithfield, Virginia, U.S., October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Polansek/File Photo

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April 1 (Reuters) – More than 20 Missouri pig farms have reported an increase in emergency manure discharge since U.S. pork producer Smithfield Foods took over them in 2006, an environmental advocacy group said, citing equipment breakdowns and poor maintenance that raise concerns about the impact. on air and water quality.

The group, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP), reviewed 30 years of Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) records on 21 hog farms now owned by Smithfield, the nation’s largest hog company, which purchased in 2006 from Premium Standard Farms (PSF ).

Citing state data, the group found that more than 4.6 million gallons of manure had been released into emergency containment structures or dumped into waterways over the past 15 years – a 70% increase over previous 15 years during PSF ownership.

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State regulators checked the SRAP data, but said the vast majority of releases from Smithfield operations were contained on-site and never reached nearby waterways.

Causes of the manure releases include clogged pipes, equipment failure and lack of proper maintenance, according to records in the report, which MNR verified for accuracy.

Smithfield said he had yet to review the report and was proud of its environmental record. He questioned the group’s analysis and said the figures for the volume of manure discharge “seem inaccurately high”.

The company said its number of violations has dropped due to improvements in its manure management.

“We are proud of our record of environmental compliance in the state over the past several years,” said Jim Monroe, vice president of corporate affairs for the company.

The number of site visits by DNR inspectors fell 49% during the same period, and the number of state violations fell 94%, the data showed. Missouri is the seventh largest pig state, according to data from the US Department of Agriculture.

Scott Dye, research and reporting specialist at SRAP and author of the report, said the DNR had not done enough to deal with the rejections. “We are seeing the same type of spills, caused by the same things,” he said.

DNR chief information officer Brian Quinn said the state routinely inspects emergency containment structures and investigates all complaints and incidents, though not all result in on-site visits.

“Discharges to secondary containment are not violations because there is no discharge of sewage to a place where it is reasonably certain that it will enter state waters,” he said. -he declares.

Communities near large livestock farms have long complained of poor air and water quality. The American Public Health Association called in 2019 for a moratorium on the construction of new such facilities due to their threat to public health.

The regulation of animal confinements has sparked a debate in Missouri between environmental groups, lawmakers and industry. In 2019, state lawmakers passed legislation overriding county health orders that imposed stricter regulations.

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Reporting by Leah Douglas; Editing by Howard Goller

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