September 26, 2001
Federal Court Ruling Declares Unpermitted Pork Factories Illegal --
Campaign Against Smithfield Gains Momentum
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW BERN, NORTH CAROLINA - A coalition of farmers, fishermen, rural activists and environmentalists applauded today a decision by United States District Judge Malcolm J. Howard which upheld the right of citizens to sue industrial pork factories for polluting. In rejecting the defendants' motions to dismiss plaintiffs' complaints, the decision in Neuse Riverkeeper, et al. v. Smithfield Foods, Inc. affirmed two important contentions by environmentalists and family farmers who claim that virtually all of Smithfield's pork factories in North Carolina are operating illegally.
First, Judge Howard held that every industrial hog facility requires a Clean Water Act permit to operate. Virtually none of Smithfield's 1,600 hog factories in North Carolina currently has such a permit. Under the Clean Water Act, an industrial hog facility is subject to penalties of up to $27,500 for each day that it operates without a permit.
Second, the Court held that the unpermitted disposal of factory hog waste on sprayfields is illegal, because "[e]xcluding parts of the waste management system . . . would compromise the goals of the Clean Water Act by allowing widespread pollution by industrial feedlots pumping waste into other areas of their farms." Virtually all of Smithfield's North Carolina hog factories currently dispose of their waste on sprayfields.
Waterkeeper Alliance's Rick Dove commented, "We are very pleased with the Court's decision, which recognizes citizens' right to stand up to the millionaire hog barons who have destroyed North Carolina's waterways, shattered its rural communities, poisoned its groundwater and impoverished family farmers and fishermen."
The groups' attorney and President of Waterkeeper Alliance, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., said "This is an outlaw industry which can only make money by breaking the law. Smithfield deliberately locates its factories in rural states where it can easily dominate state enforcement agencies. This decision puts every pork factory in the country on notice that the Marshall has come to Dodge."
According to former hog farmer Don Webb, President of the Alliance for Responsible Swine Industries, "This decision will help break Smithfield's death grip on the American family farm. Factory meat producers cannot produce pork more efficiently than the family farmer except by breaking the law."
Environmentalists urged Governor Easley and the North Carolina General Assembly to pass immediately an integrator liability statute to protect the hundreds of North Carolina contract farmers who were forced by Smithfield to adopt its illegal lagoon and sprayfield system and who now face significant civil and criminal liability as a direct result.
Press may obtain a copy of the Order by contacting Waterkeeper Alliance attorney Nicolette Hahn, whose contact information is listed below.
Contacts: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., President, Waterkeeper Alliance, 914-422-4343
Rick Dove, Waterkeeper Alliance, 252-636-9238
Nicolette Hahn, Waterkeeper Alliance, 914-490-9893
Daniel E. Estrin, Kennedy & Madonna, LLP, 917-747-4235
78 N. Broadway, E. Bldg.
White Plains, NY 10603