Tyson pleads guilty to clean water act violations after discharge in Monett creek

WASHINGTON (Edited News Release) -- Tyson Foods pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to two criminal charges of violating the Clean Water Act.

The company will pay a $2 million fine. In addition, Tyson will pay $500,000 to maintain and restore waters in the Monett area, with a focus on Clear Creek and the adjoining waterways.

“Tyson’s admitted criminal conduct caused significant environmental damage, including a large-scale fish kill,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tom Larson of the Western District of Missouri. “Today’s plea agreement not only holds Tyson accountable for its actions in Missouri, but requires the company to take steps to insure compliance with the Clean Water Act at its poultry facilities throughout the United States.”

The charges to which Tyson pleaded guilty arose out of a spill after the company mixed ingredients in its chicken feed at its feed mill in Aurora, Missouri. One ingredient in Tyson’s feed was a liquid food supplement called “Alimet,” which has a pH of less than one. According to the plea agreement filed in federal court, in May 2014, the tank used to store Alimet at the Aurora feed mill sprang a leak, and the acidic substance flowed into a secondary containment area.

Tyson hired a contractor to remove the Alimet and transport it to Tyson’s Monett plant, where the Alimet was unloaded into the in-house treatment system that was not designed to treat waste with Alimet’s characteristics. The Alimet made it into the City of Monett’s municipal waste water treatment plant, where it killed bacteria used to reduce ammonia in discharges from the treatment plant into Clear Creek, and resulting in the death of approximately 108,000 fish.

Tyson Foods released this statement:
"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.

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.

Since the incident, we’ve conducted lessons learned training for all environmental managers in our poultry operations and have strengthened our environmental policies and procedures to help prevent similar mistakes.

We reached a settlement with the State of Missouri in 2015 over the accidental release and subsequently paid a civil penalty, funded a bridge replacement in Monett and donated money to the James River Basin Partnership.

Today, we resolved federal concerns about the incident by taking responsibility for two misdemeanor violations of the Clean Water Act. Our company will pay a $2 million fine to the federal government and make a $500,000 community service payment, with half going to the City of Monett and half to Missouri environmental organizations. We will also fund third-party environmental audits of our feed mills and wastewater treatment plants."