DENVER, CO – A federal district court in Colorado has blocked efforts by the JBS-Swift Beef Company to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and Food & Water Watch to stop illegal discharges of slaughterhouse pollution into Colorado’s South Platte River.
The court’s ruling, which was filed late Wednesday, comes in the wake of President Trump’s executive order that slaughterhouses are to remain open as “critical infrastructure.” In recent weeks COVID-19 outbreaks and worker-safety concerns have closed more than a dozen slaughterhouses across the country, including the Greeley Plant where at least 280 workers have tested positive and seven have died of COVID-19.
“The court rightly refused to allow JBS-Swift Beef to walk away from the evidence it has been illegally discharging slaughterhouse pollution for years,” said Hannah Connor, an attorney at the Center. “The fact this lawsuit is moving forward is good news for Colorado residents and wildlife that depend on clean water in the South Platte River.”
The lawsuit, filed in May 2019, argues that JBS-Swift Beef’s Lone Tree Wastewater Treatment Facility has for years been discharging slaughterhouse pollution that violates Clean Water Act toxicity standards into a tributary of the South Platte River.
“We’re glad that the court rejected JBS’ attempt to avoid accountability for years of water pollution violations and look forward to having the opportunity to prove our case,” said Tarah Heinzen, an attorney with Food & Water Watch.
The facility treats slaughterhouse wastewater from the JBS-Swift Beef slaughter plant in Greeley, Colo. The waste products generated by the plant include animal fat, blood, meat, dangerous bacteria, ammonia and excrement. The beef plant also processes and preserves animal hides, creating waste loaded with salt. These pollutants can harm human health and kill fish and other aquatic life.
“As the court recognized, until JBS fixes its pollution problem, the case will continue,” said Neil Levine, an attorney at Public Justice.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction prohibiting JBS-Swift Beef Company from continuing to violate the terms of the Lone Tree Plant’s Clean Water Act permit and requiring that the company take all necessary measures to prevent future violations.
The organizations are represented by Public Justice, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization, and in-house counsel.