Buckeye Egg fined $1.36 million

COLUMBUS – Buckeye Egg Farm has agreed to pay a $1.36 million civil penalty and substantially change its business practices to comply with Ohio environmental law.

The penalty and terms are part of an agreement in principle reached between the company, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery Jan. 5.

The settlement was reached after lengthy negotiations, two days after a trial was scheduled to begin in Licking County Common Pleas Court. Montgomery filed the 27-count complaint in December 1999 on behalf of Ohio EPA Director Christopher Jones.

The complaint alleged numerous violations of Ohio’s environmental laws that included open dumping of animal waste, open dumping of solid waste, and contamination of the state’s waterways. The violations allegedly occurred at Buckeye Egg facilities in Licking, Marion, Hardin, and Wyandot counties.

“From the outset, we’ve been interested in real relief for the neighbors of Buckeye Egg,” Montgomery said. “They deserve nothing less than a life free from the flies, the smells, and the polluted water that have plagued them for so many years.”

After an extension, terms of the settlement were set to be finalized Jan. 16 and presented to Judge Gregory Frost.

Montgomery has pursued contempt of court charges on five separate occasions against Buckeye Egg for alleged violations of previous court orders related to conditions at the company’s facilities in the last year.

Jones said his agency will work with the governor’s office and Montgomery to ensure Buckeye Egg lives up to its promise.

“While I’m pleased with the settlement, we’ve signed agreements with Buckeye before,” Jones said. “If they comply with this agreement, it will improve air and water quality. We will be monitoring them closely.”

Among major terms of the announced agreement:

* Buckeye Egg will pay $1 million to Ohio EPA in quarterly installments over the next six years. The company will also invest at least $366,000 in manure aerating, turning, and storage facilities at its Goshen facility.

* Both parties agreed to a moratorium on increasing the chicken populations at all Buckeye facilities. After three years, Buckeye may seek approval from the state to expand the number of birds in its Croton flocks. After five years, Buckeye may seek approval from the state for expansion at its Goshen, Marseilles, and Mount Victory facilities.

* Buckeye Egg owner Anton Pohlman may not profit directly or indirectly from the operations during conversion to the new technology. All profits must be invested to meet environmental compliance.

* The company has agreed to modernize its barns at the Croton facility, and will upgrade its barns to include a multimillion dollar belt battery manure handling and storage system.

* In all barns, including the barns at Croton, the company has agreed to employ the number of people necessary to conduct daily water pipe inspections and promptly repair all leaks.

* Buckeye will also implement a new fly management plan and install fly monitoring equipment to ensure nuisance conditions do not reoccur.

The agreement also stipulates that any buyer and/or leasees of the facilities will be bound to the terms of the agreement, except for the civil penalty portion, which is to be paid in full by the current owner.

“In a normal situation, I would be jumping for joy,” Montgomery told the Columbus Dispatch. “But because we are dealing with one of the most recalcitrant companies I have ever seen, I am not foolish enough to think that just because we have an agreement on paper, we’re going to get compliance.”

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