Riverkeeper Tweaks Meat Packer Over Water Violations

Willamette Riverkeeper sent a 60-day notice of intent to sue Bartels Packing (Bartels Farms), a natural and organic beef supplier and slaughterhouse located west of Eugene near Fern Ridge Reservoir. Travis Williams, executive director of Willamette Riverkeeper, says the letter was prompted by a history and pattern of water violations.

The April 2 letter details four Clean Water Act (CWA) violations going back to 2010 and seven Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) water pollution control facilities permit violations dating back to 2008. Some of the CWA violations involve “animal blood waste applied to land,” according to the letter. Bartels uses lagoons to treat its wastewater and also sprays wastewater on its fields. The last violation is dated Feb. 12, 2014.

According to a European Commission survey of wastes spread on land, blood applied to land can improve levels of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. But if the percentage of blood in the wastewater is too high, then those nutrients in excess or in waterways can affect the water and fish. The survey says if the blood waste is not incorporated into the land as soon as possible, it can lead to nuisance odors.

Bartels Executive Vice President Kandi Bartels says, “We have taken many important steps to remedy prior infractions by investing enormous amounts of money and effort into substantially improving the facility and our work protocols.”

Riverkeeper says in its letter that it will file suit in 60 days unless Bartels addresses the CWA violations, seek injunctive relief (a court order to stop activities) and “$37,500 in civil penalties for each day of violation.”

Attorneys Doug Quirke and Elisabeth Holmes write, “We are available to discuss effective remedies and actions” and add that Willamette Riverkeeper welcomes “discussion of any relevant facts not included in this notice letter.”

Williams says, “In an ideal world, Bartels will meet with us and provide information that shows things have changed and the pattern is going to be different, or to work with us on corrective measures.” He says in the past, in lieu of fines, money has been directed to create healthy habitat and to local groups that work on clean water.

Kandi Bartels says, “We will be talking with Willamette Riverkeeper regarding their concerns and demonstrating that we have taken proactive steps to not only protect water and habitat, but to be part of sustainability and upcycling programs that turn everything that comes from the operation of our business into products that keep our environment green.”

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