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Release Date: 10/12/2001
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WASHINGTON – IBP Inc, the world’s largest meatpacker, has agreed to pay the United States $4.1 million in penalties for violating the nation’s environmental laws. Under the settlement, IBP has committed to construct additional wastewater treatment systems at its Dakota City, Nebraska plant to reduce its discharges of ammonia to the Missouri River, and has agreed to continue and expand operational improvements ordered last year that will significantly reduce hydrogen sulfur air emissions.

Today’s agreement filed by the Justice Department on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) resolves charges that IBP violated the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and other environmental laws at its 200-acre complex of facilities located near Dakota City, Nebraska, as well as additional violations at IBP facilities in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Texas. Each day, some 5,000 head of cattle are slaughtered and between 4,000 to 5,000 hides are tanned at the facility. In addition, approximately 4 million gallons of contaminated wastewater are treated at the plant and then discharged into the Missouri River.

"This agreement secures IBP’s future compliance with our nation’s environmental laws and penalizes its past violations," said John Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources. "This agreement further demonstrates our commitment to vigorous enforcement. The right of the people to clean air and water cannot be compromised."

"We are pleased to partner with Nebraska and other states to enforce the laws that protect our environment and public health,” said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. “This partnership will further ensure the environment is not put at risk from excessive air and water pollution.”

The Complaint alleges that IBP’s discharge of large quantities of ammonia in its wastewater violated its state-issued Clean Water Act permit. Excessive discharges of ammonia are of particular concern because of their potential to harm aquatic life in the Missouri River. There is substantial evidence of an ongoing and persistent toxicity problem stemming from the ammonia in IBP’s discharges, dating to 1988.

The United States also asserts that IBP failed to install required air pollution control equipment as the company expanded its complex from 1989 to 1995, and as a result, illegally emitted an excessive amount of hydrogen sulfide into the air. The government further alleges that IBP regularly failed to report its known releases of hydrogen sulfide in excess of 100 pounds per day, as required by law. In October 1999, IBP reported that it continuously emits as much as 1,919 pounds per day from its Dakota City facility. The Complaint finally alleges that IBP improperly disposed of spent stun gun cartridges containing lead.

Under today’s agreement, IBP will pay $4.1 million in civil penalties, and also will spend approximately $10 million in improvements to resolve its violations at the Dakota City facility and for additional projects to further reduce its discharge of pollutants to the air and water. Specifically, IBP has agreed to construct additional wastewater treatment systems at the complex to dramatically reduce its discharges of ammonia to the river. The systems to be installed by IBP exceed those required to meet the requirements of IBP’s current permit, issued in 1995, and are designed to allow the company to meet the anticipated stricter requirements of a new permit to be issued by EPA under the Clean Water Act. IBP further agrees not to contest EPA’s authority to issue that permit.

IBP also will expand a water treatment project designed to strip its incoming well water of sulfates, thereby further reducing the plant’s generation of hydrogen sulfide. The company finally will perform clean-up and plant closure work at its former facility in Palestine, Texas, to resolve Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act violations stemming from its operation of certain wastewater lagoons and its disposal of spent stun gun cartridges containing lead at that facility.

Today’s agreement lodged in U.S. District Court in Omaha, Nebraska, finally resolves the entirety of IBP’s violations at the Dakota City facility and is joined by the State of Nebraska, which will direct its $1.85 million share of the penalty to the local school system. It further resolves Clean Water Act violations at IBP facilities in Gibbon, Nebraska, and Palestine, Texas, along with violations of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, for late reporting of known releases of hydrogen sulfide and ammonia at IBP facilities in Holcomb, Kansas; Storm Lake, Iowa; Columbus Junction, Iowa; West Point, Nebraska; Denison, Iowa; Council Bluffs, Iowa; Madison, Nebraska; Storm Lake, Iowa; Emporia, Kansas; Perry, Iowa; Lexington, Nebraska; Waterloo, Iowa; and South Hutchinson, Kansas. A similar reporting violation at IBP’s facility in Joslin, Illinois, is being resolved simultaneously under an administrative settlement, for an additional $200,000 penalty.

On May 24, 2000, an interim agreement was reached that required IBP to cover lagoons and control hydrogen sulfide emissions at the Dakota City facility to resolve findings by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality that the air around the IBP complex contained levels of hydrogen sulfide that frequently exceeded state health standards. The injunctive relief in the settlement was valued at $13 million. The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is currently completing a study of the potential health effects of hydrogen sulfide exposure on the residents of Dakota City and South Sioux City, Nebraska.

The improvements required under the interim agreement are now complete. Air monitors installed under the agreement show dramatic reductions in hydrogen sulfide in the surrounding community since the improvements came on-line this past Spring. IBP is currently applying for a permit from the State of Nebraska to govern its hydrogen sulfide emissions and has agreed in this settlement not to contest the necessity of having such a permit in any future state proceedings.

IBP, founded in 1960 as Iowa Beef Packers, is the world’s largest producer of fresh beef, pork, and related products, and operates 40 plants in North America. IBP was acquired by Tyson Foods Inc on September 28, 2001 and is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Tyson.

"IBP’s Dakota City facility has been the source of persistent environmental problems for many years," said Mike Heavican, United States Attorney for the District of Nebraska. “We look forward to the company becoming a better neighbor to Nebraska citizens in the future."

Comments on this Consent Decree will be received for 30 days.

R-195 ###