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Poultry plant guilty of polluting Raeford wastewater system

Posted August 21, 2012

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— A federal jury convicted House of Raeford Farms Inc. on Monday of violating the Clean Water Act but cleared a plant manager of any wrongdoing.

House of Raeford repeatedly allowed employees at its Hoke County poultry slaughtering and processing plant to send untreated wastewater directly to the city of Raeford’s wastewater treatment plant, bypassing the facility’s pretreatment system, between February 2005 and August 2006, authorities said.

The city plant is responsible for treating industrial, commercial and residential wastewater before it is discharged to Rockfish Creek, and officials said the untreated wastewater from the House of Raeford plant hindered the city's ability to properly treat all wastewater.

A number of the bypasses, which occurred when the plant produced more wastewater than its treatment system could handle, were recorded in log books kept by House of Raeford wastewater operators and were never revealed to the city, authorities said.

“Publicly owned wastewater treatment plants must be protected from companies that cut corners by discharging wastewater illegally,” Maureen O’Mara, special agent-in-charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's regional office, said in a statement. “The defendants in this case deliberately discharged turkey parts, blood and grease into the wastewater plant for over 16 months, bypassing treatment. Today’s conviction sends the message that the American public will not tolerate companies putting profit ahead of compliance.”

The jury acquitted plant manager Gregory Steenblock of 14 charges after a week-long trial.

House of Raeford faces a maximum fine of $500,000 or twice the gain or loss resulting from the offenses, whichever is greater, for each of the 10 violations. Sentencing has been scheduled for Nov. 28.

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