Meat & Livestock News

Environmentalists Urge EPA to Expand New Pollution Rules for Slaughterhouses

Focus on biohazard sign. On the blurred background environmentalist wearing white protective suit, gas mask, collecting plastic garbage into black waste bag outdoors on a sunny day. Concept of ecology

As public hearings approach this week on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new regulations aimed at reducing pollution from slaughterhouses and meat processing plants, environmental groups are voicing their support while also pushing for an expansion of these rules. The proposed regulations focus on facilities discharging waste into U.S. water bodies.

Currently, out of 3,879 identified facilities, fewer than half are set to implement pollution-reduction measures, primarily affecting larger plants that directly release waste into waterways. The EPA’s proposed rules, which will be the subject of upcoming public hearings, including an online session on January 24 and an in-person event on January 31, aim to target nitrogen and phosphorus emissions from direct dischargers.

However, the EPA’s current plan does not include regulations for 3,708 facilities that discharge waste indirectly. The proposed controls for these facilities are limited to oil, grease, total suspended solids, and biochemical oxygen demand, as noted in a release from the Environmental Integrity Project.

This release also identified the top 10 facilities with the highest nitrogen discharge into waterways, including John Morrell & Company, Smithfield Tarheel Plant, and Cargill Meats Solutions Corp.

Environmental groups are advocating for more robust measures, highlighting the adverse effects on under-resourced communities. While the EPA acknowledges the disproportionate impact on marginalised communities, critics argue that the proposed rules are too narrow in scope.

The EPA has proposed a stricter alternative that would cover over 40% of indirect dischargers, potentially eliminating millions of tons of nitrogen and phosphorus annually. Advocates are calling for the adoption of this more environmentally protective option to prevent the overwhelming of public sewer systems by slaughterhouse waste.

Despite the EPA’s efforts to address certain pollution aspects, advocates argue that the proposed rule is insufficient in protecting water bodies and marginalised communities. They are calling for stricter pollution controls in the slaughterhouse industry.

Meanwhile, the meat industry is preparing to respond to the EPA’s new guidelines. Some industry representatives, including Julie Anna Potts, President and CEO of the Meat Institute, are requesting more time to submit comments and assess the three technical options proposed by the EPA.

Potts highlighted the significant financial impact of the EPA’s revisions, citing a potential closure of 16-53 facilities and a heavy financial burden on up to 1600 more. She also expressed concerns that the EPA’s cost analysis might significantly underestimate the compliance costs.