Perdue Farms Inc. yesterday was fined $380,000 and agreed to build a multimillion-dollar wastewater treatment plant as part of a settlement with the state to stop polluting a tributary of fragile coastal bays near Ocean City.
The agreement, which also requires Perdue to create a $150,000 wetland, is aimed at halting waste flowing from the company's Worcester County chicken processing plant.
The agreement settled a lawsuit brought by the Maryland Department of Environment in March against the company for long-standing water pollution violations.
"We are well on the way to finally solving this problem. The company will have a state of the art system running by May 1998," said Quentin Banks, a spokesman for the Department of Environment.
The state said in its lawsuit that Perdue was polluting a tributary of Church Branch in Worcester County, which feeds into the St. Martin River and into Isle of Wight Bay near Ocean City. The pollution included nitrogen, organic wastes, fecal coliform bacteria and ammonia in quantities larger than are allowed in its state permit.
Under the agreement approved by Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan, Perdue will pay $380,000 in fines for the pollution.
The company, which employs 540 people at its 10048 Pitts Road chicken processing plant in Showell, also is donating 50 acres of land and $150,000 to build a wetland on the property. But the most costly portion of the project for the company will be building a wastewater treatment plant to handle the liquid waste that comes from cutting and packaging the chicken.
Dan Prince, a company spokesman, said the sewage plant is likely to cost more than $3 million when it is completed in March 1998. Until then, the plant will continue polluting the waterways.
The state had worked on limiting the pollution several years ago when Showell Farms was independently owned. Showell had agreed to build a spray irrigation system, but Worcester County attempted to make the plant meet more stringent limits than the state. Showell sued the county and won, but in the meantime, Perdue acquired Showell in January 1995.
"Perdue decided that the irrigation system would not achieve long-term compliance and we went to the state and offered this facility upgrade," said Dan Prince a spokesman for Perdue.
As part of the agreement, Perdue also must hold meetings to inform the local community of what it is doing to complete the wastewater plant.
Pub Date: 5/08/97