Chicken processor settles water pollution suit in Florida

Markets Associated Press

A major chicken processing plant that has been cited for polluting the Suwannee River settled a lawsuit on Wednesday that was brought by environmental groups in Florida.

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Pilgrim's Pride Corp. settled the suit with Environment Florida and the Sierra Club, agreeing to pay $1.4 million and to upgrade equipment to help reduce the plant's waste.

The settlement still requires approval from a federal judge.

The plant, which cuts up and packages chickens for retail sale, is in the north Florida town of Live Oak.

Pilgrim's Pride is the second largest chicken producer in the world, and supplies chicken to fast-food restaurants and supermarkets.

The company was cited multiple times by Florida's Department of Environmental Protection for violating limits on the amount of wastewater it was legally permitted to discharge into the river. The most recent violation was in June of this year, for failing to meet deadline required by a 2015 violations.

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It was a pollution pattern that the environmental groups claimed was not being stopped by Florida's enforcement.

So the groups filed suit in federal court last year, claiming the plant was still illegally polluting the Suwannee.

"Pilgrim's Pride wasn't complying with their permits, and the (state) wasn't holding the company accountable, so Environment Florida and citizen members stepped in to get them to clean up their act" said Jennifer Rubiello, state director of the group.

Under the settlement agreement, Pilgrim's Pride will make equipment upgrades, including to its wastewater treatment plant, study how to eliminate wastewater discharges into the river and create a sustainable farming fund.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.