A hearing officer is recommending that New Mexico’s Environmental Department deny Valley Meat Company a wastewater permit over its plans to slaughter horses at a plant near Roswell.
The plant, owned by Valley Meat Company, previously slaughtered cattle but has been sitting idle as the firm presses on with plans to operate a horse slaughter facility.
A lawyer with the state Environment Department, Felicia Orth, heard the case, in which Valley Meat Company (VMC) sought a permit to discharge wastewater.
Orth, in her 49-page decision based on a hearing late in October, recommended the state environment secretary deny the application because of the company’s record of environmental violations as a cattle abattoir.
“Valley Meat has violated both the Water Quality Act and the Solid Waste Act in numerous ways consistently for more than a decade,” she said.
“Both of these acts were adopted to protect the environment and public health, safety and welfare. VMC has continued its violations in spite of repeated requests, demands, and warnings from Department personnel.
“Under the applicable New Mexico statute, Section 74-6-5(E), if an applicant for a wastewater discharge permit such as VMC has, in the ten years prior to submitting its application, acted in willful disregard of environmental laws, the application must be denied.
“I recommend that the secretary find ‘willful disregard’ on the part of the applicant – this is a mixed question of law and fact – and deny the permit.”
Should the environment secretary agree with Orth’s decision, Valley Meat company still had the option of hauling its waste to an approved facility.
Orth, in her decision, said: “Valley Meat Company’s long history of avoiding regulation and those measures such as monitoring and reporting that are necessary for regulatory oversight indicates that VMC will not take sufficient measures to assure ground water protection, to properly dispose of offal, or to comply with its permit.
“In my opinion, this history rises to the level of ‘willful disregard’ for the environmental laws of New Mexico…”
Orth noted that the company had failed to close out its clay and manure lined lagoon by September 2000, as required by its 1998 discharge peermit.
In 2004 and 2005, it discharged water from rendering dairy byproducts into its lagoon, even though this was not a permitted discharge. It continued to do so even after it was directed to stop.
Its discharge permit, DP-236, expired on May 19, 2009.
Between May 19, 2009, and April 2012, Valley Meat was in daily violation of the Water Quality Act and other New Mexico regulations which prohibit any person from causing or allowing effluent or leachate to discharge without a discharge permit.
“Valley Meat has repeatedly and knowingly violated the basic permit monitoring requirements of each discharge permit and renewal that it has been issued since its first permit was approved in 1982, despite repeated notifications from the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) of these permit violations.”
She noted Valley Meat operated an unauthorized rendering operation and discharged wastewater without a permit, despite repeated notifications from the department that a permit modification was required for the rendering operation discharges.
“Valley Meat violated the Water Quality Act and the terms of its permit by failing to take specific steps to improve its lagoon system and close out its clay and manure-lined lagoon, which were conditions of its 1998 and 2004 permit renewals.”
It violated regulations when it discharged wastewater from the rendering of dairy cows without modifying its permit to cover the new discharge, even after being told to stop by Environment Department personnel.
“For years, Valley Meat failed to register as a composting operation, in violation of New Mexico’s Solid Waste Act, and ignored NMED’s requirements that it cease its illegal composting operation, in willful disregard of New Mexico’s Solid Waste Act.
“For years, Valley Meat failed to properly dispose of solid waste, specifically thousands of cubic yards of material consisting of bones, hides, and heads mixed with manure, in violation of New Mexico’s Solid Waste Act, ignored NMED’s requirements that it stop dumping, piling, and burying animal carcasses and parts around its facility, in willful disregard of New Mexico’s Solid Waste Act,” Orth said.
Based on its history of willful disregard for environmental laws and regulations under the Water Quality Act and the Solid Waste Act, Valley Meat’s application for a discharge permit was denied, she concluded.