- Associated Press - Thursday, March 9, 2017

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday against a large chicken processing plant in north Florida, alleging the facility is illegally polluting the Suwannee River.

Environment Florida and the Sierra Club filed the complaint alleging violations of the Clean Water Act in federal court in Jacksonville.

The suit accuses the Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. of violating clean water laws by sending more polluted wastewater into the river than the facility is permitted to discharge. The plant, located in the town of Live Oak, cuts up and packages chickens for retail sale.

“Over the course of a year, the plant produces an average daily flow of over one million gallons per day of wastewater that is discharged to the Suwannee River,” the groups’ lawsuit states.

In a statement, Pilgrim’s Pride says it takes the allegations seriously and that the problems highlighted in the suit were discovered and reported to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection by the company.

Company spokesman Cameron Bruett says corrective actions have already been implemented.

“We are unaware of any current conditions that would merit this legal action, however we will review the complaint and respond appropriately,” the company said in the statement.

Florida’s DEP said the facility was last cited in 2015 for violating its toxicity limits and was ordered to comply with its permitted discharge amounts by the end of last year.

Pilgrim’s Pride did not meet the deadline, said Dee Ann Miller, a DEP spokeswoman. The company is now being required to develop more robust plans to come into compliance.

The environmental groups say neither the company nor state regulators are doing enough. Their suit asks that a federal judge declare Pilgrim’s in violation of its pollution permits and order the company to comply with the Clean Water Act.

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