Cal-Maine Foods, Inc. Clean Water Act Settlement
(Washington, DC - April 13, 2015) EPA and Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division announced today a settlement with Cal-Maine Foods, Inc., one of the nation’s largest egg producers, that resolves Clean Water Act violations at the company’s poultry egg production facility in Edwards, Miss. Under the settlement, Cal-Maine will bring the facility into compliance with its state-issued water discharge permit, significantly reduce nutrient pollution discharges, and improve environmental data collection and reporting practices. The company will also pay a $475,000 penalty to be split evenly between the U.S. Federal and Mississippi governments.
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Overview of Company and Facility Location
Cal-Maine is one of the largest egg producers in the U.S. and has many facilities in several states. This settlement involves Cal-Maine’s large poultry egg concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) in Edwards, Mississippi, which confines over 2 million birds.
This settlement resolves two types of Clean Water Act (CWA) violations: 1) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit violations (i.e., failure to implement buffers/best management practices, failure to comply with condition prohibiting land application during the winter months of November to March, exceedance of agronomic rates for nitrogen, failure to maintain land application records, failure to conduct storm water sampling, and failure to submit annual report), and 2) unauthorized discharges of cooling spray condensate comingled with manure, litter, and/or process wastewater from the production area to a tributary of Bakers Creek.
This action resulted in Cal-Maine developing and implementing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for its production area and land application areas to achieve compliance with its NPDES permit, implementing an employee training policy, and improving its record-keeping and reporting practices. The SOPs were reviewed and approved by EPA and the state of Mississippi over the course of settlement negotiations and implementation by Cal-Maine began immediately. The Consent Decree requires Cal-Maine to comply with its NPDES permit and nutrient management plan and to continue implementation of its SOPs. EPA estimates the total cost of the compliance measures is approximately $418,000. The final compliance date is April 30, 2016.
The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) joined EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice in this action.
Health and Environmental Effects
EPA estimates that Cal-Maine’s remedial measures will reduce the discharge of about 89,000 pounds of nitrogen and 20,000 pounds of phosphorus per year.
Excess levels of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus in waters can produce harmful algal blooms that can contribute to the creation of hypoxia or “dead zones” in water bodies where dissolved oxygen levels are so low that most aquatic life cannot survive. Cal-Maine’s implementation of SOPs resulting from this action is expected to improve the operation and maintenance of its Edwards facility, eliminate the potential for future CWA violations such as unauthorized discharges of nutrients and, thereby, provide health and environmental benefits to people in the surrounding community.
Environmental Justice Analysis
EPA staff conclude that Cal-Maine’s Edwards facility is in an environmental justice area. The analysis indicates that in a three-mile study area around the Edwards facility: 662 people or 81 percent of the total population of 815 are African American; 25 percent of the population did not graduate from high school and 18 percent have a college degree; and, about 46 percent of the households earn less than $25,000 per year. Health statistics show that the National Cancer Institute cancer mortality rates for all cancers in Hinds County from 1974 to 1990 were higher than the rates for the state, and environmental results indicate that there are 13 impaired streams within the study area. The elimination of illegal discharges of pollutants to surface waters and the improved overall management of this large CAFO resulting from this settlement will help to ensure CWA compliance and protect the people of this vulnerable community.
Cal-Maine will pay a $475,000 civil penalty, split as follows: $237,500 civil penalty to the United States Treasury and $237,500 civil penalty to the MDEQ.
Once the proposed consent decree is lodged with the court, it will be subject to a 30-day public comment period.
For More Information, Contact:
OECA/OCE - Water Enforcement Division (Mail Code 2243A)
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20460
Office of Regional Counsel
U.S. EPA – Region 4
61 Forsyth Street, S.W.
Atlanta, GA 30303