BALTIMORE (July 23, 1998) – The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) represented by the Office of the Attorney General of Maryland today filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Worcester County against Tyson Foods Inc. for willfully over-applying chicken sludge on its farm near Berlin, Maryland, and polluting the ground and surface waters of the State.
The Department is alleging that Tyson over applied sludge to its 139 acre farm by subsoil injection at a rate of 12,000 to 16,000 gallons per day since January 4, 1997, and the sludge contained nitrogen, phosphorus and metals which are known to be hazardous to waters of the State and public health.
MDE is asking the court to grant an injunction which would prohibit Tyson from future sludge application by soil injection or any other method, require Tyson to conduct a study of ground and surface waters of the State to determine the extent of contamination resulting from land application of chicken sludge, require Tyson to submit and implement a plan to address the handling, transportation and disposal of all sludge generated from its poultry processing operations, and assess a civil penalty. Under Maryland law, Tyson can be fined up to $10,000 per day per violation.
Attempts to work with the Company to reach an acceptable settlement were unsuccessful. "MDE must take decisive action when violations are willful and jeopardize the health of important watersheds like the Pocomoke River," said MDE Secretary Jane Nishida.
Run off from agricultural operations which contains these nutrients have been linked to last summers outbreaks of Pfiesteria piscidia, which caused significant environmental damage as well as serious adverse health effects. Elevated levels of nitrates in groundwater, which are derived from nitrogen, cause health problems in children who consume these in drinking water. Nitrogen and phosphorous in surface water are known to cause algae blooms which choke out other aquatic life.