An Eastern Shore poultry rendering facility has suspended operations as it takes steps, under the oversight of the Maryland Department of the Environment, to comply with regulations that protect the environment and public health.
The Valley Proteins facility in Dorchester County suspended operations following an MDE inspection report that listed a series of needed corrections, along with potential MDE actions for failing to comply with those requirements. The inspection report requires the facility to set forth planned actions to ensure that future operations will comply with discharge limits and permit terms. The proposal is subject to MDE review as the department and the facility work toward an agreement, in the form of a consent order, on moving forward.
MDE announced in September that it intended to take an enforcement action against the facility and pursue a significant financial penalty to address past violations. Last week, Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles informed Valley Proteins that its recent compliance record leaves the agency with no option but to proceed with the filing of a civil complaint. The filing of that complaint is pending.
In his letter, Secretary Grumbles wrote: “The Department is committed to protecting and restoring the environment and has the responsibility and authority to ensure compliance with environmental laws and regulations. A primary goal of the Department is to attain and maintain a high rate of compliance by providing clear expectations and by ensuring that environmental responsibilities are enforced within the regulated community consistently. When significant violations are observed the Department has an obligation to take equitable and timely enforcement action, reasonably necessary, to deter future violations from occurring.”
In recent months, Valley Proteins has been the subject of a number of MDE inspections that found the facility to be out of compliance with environmental regulations and law. Additional pollution events at the facility in the past week led to MDE to issue an inspection report yesterday that includes findings, a list of corrective actions and that states: “Failure to comply with any of the actions… may result in the Department taking additional actions, including but not limited to issuing an Administrative Order, suspension of the permit, and/or administrative and civil penalties.”
The Valley Proteins facility in Linkwood, Dorchester County, suspended its operations in response to MDE’s inspection report, attorneys for the facility told attorneys for MDE.
In September, in addition to the announcement that it intended to take an enforcement action, MDE released a draft permit that would require significant water quality improvements from the Valley Protein facility. The public comment period on the draft permit, which initially incorporated a 60-day extension and then an additional 30-day extension, is open until January 14, 2022. MDE held a virtual public hearing in October and an in-person public hearing in November. MDE values public input and will carefully consider all comments received in making a final decision on the permit application.
“We are much more focused on enforcement and correcting any ongoing violations before taking any actions on a draft permit,” said Secretary Grumbles.
Source: Maryland Department of the Environment