EPA Probes Western Arkansas Egg Production Facility

August 11, 2008

The Environmental Protection Agency is investigating alleged violations of state and federal environmental laws by a recently shuttered egg laying operation in western Arkansas.

Arkansas Egg Co. officials confirmed the investigation was under way but declined to describe the nature of the alleged violations.

A spokeswoman with the U.S. EPA’s office in Dallas would not elaborate about what prompted the agency’s investigation.

“We are evaluating information collected during an investigation of a potential violation,” EPA spokeswoman Tressa Tillman said. “Since this action is pending, I am unable to provide additional information. EPA will take appropriate action once the review is completed.”

Tillman said it is unknown when that potential enforcement action might be initiated. She said the EPA is working in conjunction with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

The company is located within the Illinois River watershed.

Its caged layer farm near Summers, Ark., has been operating under an administrative consent order since 2005. ADEQ documents regulators found storage structures containing liquid poultry wastes that were maintained improperly.

In 1992, when the facility was being operated as Ozark Egg, an unpermitted discharge of poultry waste into Ballard Creek resulted with numerous fish being killed in Oklahoma. That incident resulted with the assessment of $24,000 in civil penalties and more than $9,000 to the state of Oklahoma for costs associated with the investigation of the fish kill.

Arkansas Egg President Michael Cox said the company ceased its egg-laying operations earlier this year. Arkansas Egg has filed a closure plan with ADEQ.

Regulators approved the company’s closure plan in July. The terms of the plan specify that all liquid and solid poultry wastes be removed from in-house storage pits and holding ponds and applied only to approved land application sites.

Cox said the decision to shut down the egg-production facility was made because of the age of the facility and overall conditions in the egg market.

“The majority of the egg laying houses operating now are built with dry manure systems,” Cox said. “They are more environmentally friendly than liquid manure systems.”

Arkansas Egg and its predecessor, Ozark Egg, operated a liquid waste management system at the facility. The system, ADEQ documents show, included onsite concrete tanks, lagoons and field application.

Cox said Arkansas Egg has no plans to reopen any type of operation that would require an environmental permit.

Information from: Muskogee Phoenix, www.muskogeephoenix.com

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