In October, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced, through the Federal Register, its decision not to improve outdated and limited federal water pollution standards for slaughterhouses. Today, we filed a lawsuit seeking a review of the decision and justice for our waterways. Read the lawsuit press release here.
Slaughterhouses cause water pollution.
Right now, there are 5,000 slaughterhouses in the U.S., killing animals to the tune of 8 billion chickens, 100 million pigs, and 30 million cattle each year. More than one-third of those slaughterhouses are still operating under water pollution guidelines that date back to 1974.
In 2018, the average U.S. slaughterhouse was found to generate up to 330 pounds of nitrogen per day, along with huge volumes of water contaminated with blood, oil and grease, and other wastes.
Under the contested guidelines, an estimated 4,700 slaughterhouses are discharging this pollution into our waterways, including the Chesapeake Bay, either directly or indirectly through municipal sewage treatment plants. This pollution can cause severe public health hazards and algae blooms that suffocate aquatic life.
The numbers speak for themselves. Slaughterhouse pollution standards need major improvement.
Under the federal Clean Water Act, the EPA is actually required to review water pollution standards for slaughterhouses every single year. But it hasn't revised standards in over 15 years. This is despite the fact that the EPA itself even identified slaughterhouses as the largest industrial source of nitrogen water pollution without updated standards.
America’s largest slaughterhouses are clustered in rural areas, such as eastern North Carolina and portions of Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, and Pennsylvania. Without updated pollution standards, these communities will continue to face excessive water contamination.
It's up to the EPA to enforce slaughterhouse water pollution standards.
Updated pollution standards could help to mitigate slaughterhouse-caused water crises in America. The most technologically advanced slaughterhouses already release far less pollution than the dirtiest plants, proving that improved technology exists.
This lawsuit asserts that under the Clean Water Act, the EPA must ensure all slaughterhouses adopt up-to-date and effective pollution-control technology. By not doing so, the EPA is yielding to the profit-driven ambitions of Big Ag to the detriment of public health and environmental health.
Read the petition here.