Company may now face charges for alleged violations of Clean Water Act

Friday, December 28th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) _ Tyson Foods Inc., currently facing charges of conspiring to smuggle illegal aliens, could be indicted for allegedly violating the Clean Water Act.

The U.S. attorney's office for the Western District of Missouri advised the Arkansas-based company of an impending indictment for alleged violations at its plant near Sedalia, Mo., according to the company's annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Under the Clean Water Act, it's illegal to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters unless a permit is obtained under the law.

The report did not indicate the specific violations, but it said Tyson ``is presently discussing the possible resolution of the matter.''

Company spokesman Ed Nicholson didn't comment specifically on a possible indictment, but told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that protecting water quality is ``something that we devote resources and a lot of attention to.''

Ken Midkiff, director of the Sierra Club's national clean water campaign based in Columbia, Mo., said an indictment wouldn't surprise him because authorities raided the Tyson plant near Sedalia several months ago and confiscated files.

``The only thing perhaps a bit surprising is it took so long,'' Midkiff said.

The indictment would be the second recent indication that waste from Tyson's chicken operations in Missouri may be violating pollution standards. In October, a group of Oklahoma residents filed a class-action suit alleging that pollution from the Tyson chicken plant in Noel, Mo., was hurting their property values.

However, Tyson called the charges ``unfounded'' and said it ``intends to vigorously defend the case.''

In addition to alleged pollution violations, the company is also battling another matter that arose earlier this month.

A 36-count federal indictment was unsealed in Chattanooga that charged the company and six current or former managers with conspiring to import and transport illegal alien workers to Tyson plants throughout the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The company denies the accusations and says any managers who conspired to smuggle in aliens were acting outside of company policy.