Waterkeeper Alliance and Smithfield Foods Reach Agreement on Environmental Pact

January 20, 2006 |  pdf » | link »

GREENVILLE, N.C. – Waterkeeper Alliance and Smithfield Foods, Inc. today announced agreement on new measures to enhance environmental protections at approximately 275 hog production facilities in North Carolina. These measures are the result of the settlement of two lawsuits filed in 2001 by Waterkeeper Alliance, Neuse River Foundation and Lower Neuse Riverkeeper against two swine facilities that are now owned and operated by Murphy-Brown LLC, Smithfield’s hog production subsidiary. 

“We are pleased that Smithfield and Murphy-Brown are taking positive steps to make Murphy-Brown operations more protective of the environment,” said Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Waterkeeper Alliance president. “The enhancements that Murphy-Brown has agreed to implement pursuant to our agreement are important improvements in the operation of the current system.” 

Typical swine facilities in North Carolina and many other states use a lagoon waste management system to collect and biologically treat animal manure, which then is sprayed onto fields as fertilizer. Under today’s agreement, Murphy-Brown will fund major programs to: (1) identify and eliminate potential lagoon risks to groundwater, the drinking water source for most rural North Carolinians; (2) monitor potential surface water runoff from land application areas; and (3) increase stream buffers, wetlands and other methods for protecting the public’s waterways. 

In addition, Murphy-Brown will implement enhanced manure management measures at all the hog production facilities that it owns and operates in North Carolina. These enhancements include a computerized Precipitation Alert System that uses National Weather Service Data to prevent the spraying of liquid manure before, during and immediately after rainstorms, and the use of automatic devices to shut down spraying when wind speeds exceed 15 miles per hour. 

“We are very pleased with this settlement, which acknowledges Smithfield Foods’ environmental stewardship efforts, and its position as a food industry leader in helping preserve and protect the natural resources in the communities where we live and work,” said Dennis Treacy, Smithfield’s Vice President – Environmental and Corporate Affairs. 

The enhanced measures are contained in a consent decree filed in U. S. District Court in Greenville. The decree is subject to a 45-day period for review and comment by the United States Department of Justice and approval by the Court. 

“Smithfield Foods has committed to continually improving its environmental stewardship efforts, and much of the credit goes to our employees, who have worked very hard to implement our industry’s highest environmental standards and help Smithfield achieve our environmental goals,” said Treacy. 

Waterkeeper Alliance is a grassroots advocacy group made up of 157 local advocacy organizations, including the Lower Neuse Riverkeeper, dedicated to protecting the nation’s waterways. “Today’s agreement represents a significant milestone in the efforts of Waterkeeper Alliance, our member program Lower Neuse Riverkeeper, and the Neuse River Foundation to preserve and protect North Carolina’s waterways and fisheries,” said Steve Fleischli, Waterkeeper Alliance’s Executive Director. “Our focus will now turn to convincing the rest of the industry to follow Smithfield’s lead and implement similar environmentally protective enhancements while we await a longer term solution to the agricultural waste conundrum.” 

Larry Baldwin, Lower Neuse Riverkeeper concurred, “This agreement is a positive step for the Neuse River, and all rivers of the state of North Carolina. Our hope at this time is that the example that is being set by Smithfield Foods will now be followed by the rest of the industry. The technology is available for all of the hog producers to become good stewards of our rivers.” 

Steve Fleischli, Waterkeeper Alliance. (914) 674-0622
Dennis Treacy, Smithfield Foods, Inc. (757) 365-3010
Larry Baldwin, Lower Neuse Riverkeeper, (252) 670-0389

For more information, please visit waterkeeper.org,  neuseriver.org or smithfieldfoods.com