Sierra Club Files Suit against Seaboard

Article excerpt

The Sierra Club has filed a federal lawsuit against Seaboard Farms and Seaboard Corp., alleging pollution of the state's waterways by the firm's Dorman concentrated animal feeding operation in Beaver County.

"Sierra Club feels compelled to file this lawsuit in order to protect Oklahoma's citizens from pollution caused by the waste generated from huge animal factories," said Sierra Club Oklahoma President Chris Corbett.

"State and federal agencies have not taken sufficient enforcement action to address Seaboard's repeated violations of federal law. Seaboard's illegal actions pose an unacceptable threat to our water resources, and must stop."

Federal law requires anyone intending to lodge such an action to notify the subject of the lawsuit 60 days prior to filing suit. An "intent to sue" letter was mailed to Seaboard in February alleging several clean water law violations at the Dorman facility, which houses 27,000 swine.

The alleged violations range from directly pouring waste into streams, over-applying waste to land and the plant's inability to store hog waste properly.

"In October 1999, over just a one-month period of time, more than 160,000 gallons of wastewater were spilled at the Dorman facility," said Corbett. "These spills and other violations by Seaboard are particularly alarming due to the proximity of the Dorman site to the Beaver River, and because the site overlies the Ogallala aquifer, which creates a major threat to the quality of these important Oklahoma water resources."

Located below the Dorman site in the Panhandle, the Beaver River drains a 17,700-acre wildlife management area and flows near the town of Beaver before it turns southeast into the North Canadian River, feeding Fort Supply, Canton and Overholser lakes.

Sierra Club argues that the soils underlying and adjacent to the facility are permeable, sandy soils, which allow for the underground flow of water and pollutants from the swine operation to the refuge and the Beaver River watershed.

Specifically, the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma is seeking:

* A declaratory judgment holding that Seaboard has violated and continues to violate the clean water act.

* An injunction against operation of the site in a manner that would result in further violations.

In particular, the Sierra Club wants Seaboard prohibited from further operations at Dorman until the company has applied for and obtained a federal National Pollution Discharge Elimination System or NPDES permit.

Federal law bans discharge of pollutants from a point source into U.S. waters unless discharge is specifically permitted in a NPDES permit.

Seaboard obtained a conditional State Department of Agriculture feedyard license, but not a NPDES permit.

The Dorman site is designated by the state as a "zero discharge" facility, one which does not discharge pollutants. However, the Sierra Club filing alleges several instances of pollutant discharge in September through November of last year, documented in agriculture department inspection reports. …