Concerned citizens reached out to Shorekeeper early this year to inquiry about a consent order between the Department of Environmental Quality and the poultry company, Tyson for violations at their Temperanceville plant in Accomack County.
Shorekeeper contacted the state but the information provided raised more questions than answers and so Shorekeeper filed a Freedom of Information request to obtain the detailed reports of the violations as well as Tysons plan to remedy the issues.
The documents made clear that the proposed penalty of $16,000 was woefully inadequate as the violations were made knowingly and the state had failed to fine them for all violations. Additionally, the plan to remedy the issues was clearly insufficient to protect our waters from future pollution.
Shorekeeper wrote to the Department of Environmental Quality detailing our concerns with both the penalty and action plan proposed. We also made clear that a fine of $16,000 did not meet the intent of the Clean Water Act to serve as a deterrent. Shorekeeper also highlighted the fact that this facility has a long history of violating its permit and dumping excess pollutants into our waterways as evidenced by previous consent orders. Clearly the penalties are not having the intended action of forcing Tyson to clean up its act on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
In addition to our call for more stringent penalties and a more robust action plan we requested that this matter go before the State Water Control Board for a public hearing. Without our FOIA the matter would have been settled without even accounting for the violations properly and with zero opportunity for meaningful public input. By elevating this to the State Water Control Board we hope to not only hold Tyson accountable for their pollution but also to shine a light on the shortcomings in Virginia’s environmental regulatory shortcomings.
(DEQ) Notified Shorekeeper that after reviewing our comments they decided to reassess the fine at $26,000 and agreed with us that Tyson was highly culpable for their actions. DEQ raised Tysons official culpability from “serious” to “high” considering the facts the violations were foreseeable, and precautions to prevent the violations were not taken. They also required Tyson to rewrite their compliance action plan.
They also notified us that our request for this to be heard before the State Water Control Board will also be granted and the order will be heard at the July 19th meeting. Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper will be traveling to Richmond to speak to the order as well as the rapid increase in the poultry sector in Accomack County. Shorekeeper is organizing carpools for eastern shore residents that would like to join us in voicing their concerns to the Water Control Board members.