- Associated Press - Friday, April 10, 2015

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - An environmental group has threatened to sue a Lane County slaughterhouse and meat packer, saying it discharged blood and other liquid waste in violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

Portland-based Willamette Riverkeeper says it sent the lawsuit warning notice to Bartels Packing.

The notice lists four violations documented by the state Department of Environmental Quality from 2010 to 2014. Each claims that wastewater or blood waste entered waterways near Fern Ridge Lake. The lake discharges into the Willamette River.

The federal Clean Water Act allows private entities to sue violators.

“Given the past permit violations by this facility, and their continued operations, we believe that there is the reasonable likelihood for future violations,” said Willamette Riverkeeper’s executive director Travis Williams.

The Portland-based nonprofit organization said it would seek a fine of $37,500 for each day that each violation took place.

Kandi Bartels, executive vice president of Bartels, tells The Register-Guard (http://is.gd/KkNCZY) the company will address the notice with Willamette Riverkeeper. “They’ll learn the truth and hopefully will understand where we’re coming from,” she said.

Bartels also said the notice is the latest in a “stampede” of what she later called “character assassinations” against the company.

Bartels is one of only two U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected slaughterhouses in Lane County. The company sells meat as Bartels Farms.

The company says the slaughterhouse wastewater is pumped into a primary lagoon, where it is treated with enzymes. The water then flows into a second lagoon for further treatment and is later sprayed by a tractor onto adjacent farmland owned by the Bartels family.

Blood waste from the harvest floor, meanwhile, flows into a separate drain and is pumped into a tanker truck, which hauls the waste to a facility where it is converted into methane gas for electricity, the company said.

But Willamette Riverkeeper says the company’s waste management process is insufficient.

Last fall, Bartels agreed to pay $17,800 in fines to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to settle allegations that wastewater that had been sprayed onto a field and was draining into a ditch had flowed into wetlands near Fern Ridge Lake, and that the company’s primary lagoon had overflowed, leading to blood waste flowing onto a pasture and into the lake.

The DEQ also alleges that Bartels violated its state-issued wastewater discharge permit by failing to conduct adequate wastewater sampling and monitoring in 2012 and 2013. The agency says it is negotiating with the company on that issue.

In a 2013 statement Bartels sent to the DEQ, the company stated that it spent $1.5 million to ensure that its slaughterhouse “is operated in a responsible and environmentally friendly way (that) meets the conditions of our” state permit.

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Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com

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