Poultry company Foster Farms has been fined $44,000 by the Washington State Department of Ecology for discharging untreated wastewater from its Kelso processing facility.
The volume of waste overwhelmed the Three Rivers Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant and some of it reached the Columbia River.
The release of the chicken processing wastewater on June 6, 2015, violated Foster Farms’ water quality permit, officials said. State regulations require the company to pre-treat its wastewater before it is discharged to the Three Rivers treatment plant.
A statement by the Department of Ecology noted that workers at the treatment plant found large amounts of grease and feathers throughout the facility. They removed almost one cubic yard of feathers and other chicken processing waste from the plant’s inlet screen.
The Department criticized Foster Farms for not reporting the release in a timely manner.
“If they had immediately reported the discharge, the treatment plant could have had a chance to prepare for it and better protect the river,” said Heather Bartlett, manager of the Department of Ecology’s Water Quality Program.
Foster Farms explained that the the accidental discharge occurred when new wastewater treatment equipment was being installed.
“While employees worked to correct the treatment issue on site immediately, the company regrets that notification was inadvertently delayed,” it said in a statement.
In addition to the fine, Foster Farms has been ordered to update its operation and maintenance manual to identify how it will protect the Three Rivers Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant from similar discharges in the future.