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story.lead_photo.caption In this Oct. 28, 2009, file photo, a Tyson Foods, Inc., truck is parked at a food warehouse in Little Rock. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

A lawsuit filed last week in Alabama seeks compensation for loss of property value as a result of a spill from a rendering plant that polluted the Black Warrior River and killed tens of thousands of fish.

On June 6, a River Valley Ingredients rendering plant accidentally spilled more than 200,000 gallons of partially treated wastewater into the Mulberry Fork of the Black Warrior River, which led to a fish kill and led to the cancellation of a kayak race.

More than 175,000 fish died from the discharge, possibly more. It is difficult to say because there were dead fish for many miles downstream from the plant, according to the lawsuit. Residents who live near the river and two affected businesses claim in the lawsuit that the discharge violated the federal Clean Water Act and lowered their property values.

Since the spill, officials with River Valley Ingredients and its owner, Tyson Foods, have met with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to discuss the spill and all proactive measures taken to address it, a Tyson spokesman said in an email Thursday.

"We deeply regret this incident and will continue to work with state officials and members of the community to evaluate options for conservation," spokesman Worth Sparkman said in a statement.

The spill was caused by a faulty pipe. After Tyson bought the plant in August of 2018, an outside contractor installed a pipe, which resulted in the wastewater release. The spill was stopped shortly after it started, and Tyson hired an outside contractor to help with cleanup efforts, which also are finished.

"We are following up with the contractor that supplied the failed pipe and will continue our previously planned work to upgrade the facility," Sparkman said in the email.

The spill, and others that came before it, have been a point of contention for residents who live nearby. Before Tyson Foods bought the plant, American Proteins reported several similar incidents, citing a lack of maintenance and oversight, the lawsuit said. Nearby residents argue that the smelly spills and the odor that comes off the plant have created a stigma, devaluing their properties. One said in the complaint that it reeks of "fermented garbage burning."

Less than 10 days after the spill, Tyson said in a statement that the river was safe for recreation. However, the Alabama Conservation and Natural Resources Department has said the spill was so substantial that the river would be damaged for the next five years.

The plaintiffs contend that Tyson based its statement on oxygen levels being returned to normal, without accounting for E. coli and fecal coliform levels.

Attorneys Edward Jackson and Judson Allen filed the complaint last week on behalf of Sipsey Heritage Commission Inc., Chandler Holdings LLC and 40 residents of Walker, Cullman or Blount counties. It was filed in the Circuit Court of Walker County, Ala.

The complaint asks the court to require defendants to implement better safeguards at the plant, and remediate the Mulberry River and the Mulberry Fork of the Black Warrior River, according to court documents.

Business on 07/26/2019

Print Headline: Suit seeks redress after plant owned by Tyson taints river

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