Tyson Poultry Inc. was sentenced in federal court in Springfield, Missouri, to pay a $2 million criminal fine, serve two years of probation, and pay $500,000 to directly remedy harm caused when it violated the Clean Water Act, the Justice Department announced. The charges stemmed from discharges at Tyson’s slaughter and processing facility in Monett, Missouri that led to a major fish kill event. 

Tyson Poultry, the nation’s largest chicken producer, is headquartered in Springdale, Arkansas, and is a subsidiary of Tyson Foods Inc. According to court records, Tyson Poultry’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 food 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. 

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

“Good corporate practices are vital to protecting public health and our nation’s natural resources,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood for the Environment & Natural Resources Division. “When corporate misconduct disregards human safety or the environment in violation of federal laws, the Department of Justice and EPA stand ready to pursue all necessary legal relief, including criminal penalties, to ensure that these acts do not go unpunished. We hope that the outcome of this case will be a lesson for all companies that deal with dangerous wastes.” 

“Today’s sentence not only remedies the harm Tyson Poultry caused locally, but puts safeguards in place to prevent similar occurrences at Tyson Poultry facilities across the country,” said U.S. Attorney Timothy A. Garrison for the Western District of Missouri. “Tyson’s $2.5 million fine and restitution payment reflects the seriousness of this offense and our commitment to protect Missouri’s natural resources.”

“Today’s sentencing not only holds Tyson Poultry accountable for their illegal actions, it includes important requirements for the company to improve compliance with the law to prevent future violations,” said Assistant Administrator Susan Bodine for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This case exemplifies EPA’s commitment to protect clean water by pursuing the most egregious violations.”

According to the Springfield News-Leader, Tyson released the following statement: "As we noted last fall, we have resolved federal concerns about a 2014 environmental incident at Monett by taking responsibility for two misdemeanor violations of the Clean Water Act. 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 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. We’ve strengthened our environmental policies and procedures to help prevent similar mistakes. "

Source: Department of Justice, Springfield News-Leader