DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT ANNOUNCES CLEAN WATER INITIATIVES AT VALLEY PROTEINS FACILITY
MDE releases draft discharge permit with significantly stronger requirements, pursues enforcement action with financial penalty for alleged environmental violations
BALTIMORE (Sept. 15, 2021) – The Maryland Department of the Environment today released a draft permit that would require significant water quality improvements from an Eastern Shore facility, while also pursuing a significant financial penalty and corrective actions for a series of alleged environmental violations at the plant.
The draft permit would require the Valley Proteins facility in Dorchester County to significantly reduce pollutants in the discharge from its wastewater treatment plant to ensure water quality standards are met. As part of its enforcement initiative, MDE is pursuing a potential settlement that would include requirements for environmental improvements in addition to a substantial financial penalty.
“Our proposed actions mean cleaner water and a healthier watershed, with greater accountability for environmental violations,” said Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “We are working with the facility, citizens, and advocacy groups to ensure environmental progress using our regulatory enforcement tools.”
The draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for Valley Proteins is designed to meet stringent water quality standards. It includes science and technology based requirements to reduce total nitrogen by 43% and total phosphorus by 79%, along with other improvements needed to meet ammonia and dissolved oxygen standards.
The draft permit includes updated groundwater monitoring requirements that could provide additional information about potential sources of pollution. The draft permit also contains more specific sludge management plan requirements to ensure its proper handling and to better account for its disposal.
The draft permit includes limits based on the plant’s current flow rate of 150,000 gallons per day and stricter limits should the plant expand its flow rate to up to 575,000 gallons per day. To comply with the permit, Valley Proteins will have to make significant upgrades to wastewater treatment at the facility.
MDE plans to extend its public comment period beyond the normal 30 days to 90 days, or December 15, to allow for more time to consider the draft permit. MDE will hold both a virtual public hearing, scheduled for 5 p.m. October 20, and an in-person public hearing, at a date and place to be determined. MDE will consider the comments received in making a final decision on the permit application. The draft permit, a fact sheet and a public notice that includes information on the the public comment process are on MDE’s website.
MDE continues to investigate the Valley Proteins facility for compliance with environmental laws and regulations. Investigations to date have found alleged violations of conditions of its current wastewater permit and water laws between July 2018 and the present, including failure to meet effluent limits, an unauthorized discharge and allowing pollutants in a position likely to pollute waters of the state. In response to complaints about odors, MDE conducted an inspection of the plant in August and found alleged violations of conditions in the plant’s air quality permit. MDE intends to take enforcement action based on the alleged water and air violations.
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