For Immediate Release, October 1, 2019


Hannah Connor, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 681-1676,
Jackie Filson, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-2538,

Colorado Slaughterhouse Warned of Lawsuit After Clean Air Act Violations

DENVER— The Center for Biological Diversity and Food & Water Watch today sent a formal notice of their intent to sue JBS USA and the JBS-Swift Beef Company for Clean Air Act violations at its Greeley Beef Plant.

The violations stem from terms in JBS-Swift Beef’s 2015 air permit that detail how the company can dispose of salty wastewater generated during the processing of hides from slaughtered animals.

The evaporation method JBS-Swift Beef uses to dispose of the salt-brine wastewater may contribute to harmful ozone pollution known as smog. But whether that is the case is unknown, because the company has failed to comply with the sampling and reporting terms of its permit over the past four years.

“As one of the world’s biggest meat producers, JBS should be a leader in making sure its slaughter operations aren’t polluting the region’s air or water,” said Hannah Connor, a senior attorney at the Center. “Colorado’s communities and wildlife deserve better than chronic noncompliance with laws that are in place to protect the region’s air quality, especially given the state’s ongoing problem with controlling smog along the Front Range.”

As a part of its beef slaughterhouse in Greeley, Colo., JBS-Swift Beef operates a rendering plant that breaks down animal byproducts such as blood, fats and animal hides. A brine-saltwater bath is used in that process to preserve the hides for sale. This rendering process generates an estimated 5.2 million gallons of salt-brine wastewater per year.

JBS-Swift Beef has used an evaporator to manage and dispose of this wastewater since January 2019. But the plant’s Clean Air Act permit requires JBS-Swift Beef to conduct testing and sampling to address ozone pollution and confirm that the plant is not exceeding its permitted emissions limits for other pollutants, requirements with which the company has not complied.

“Salts can be harmful to aquatic ecosystems, but while reducing the briny wastewater discharged into Lone Tree Creek through the use of an evaporator system may have temporary benefits for water quality, it is unacceptable for JBS to simply violate the Clean Air Act in order to do so,” said Tarah Heinzen, senior attorney with Food & Water Watch. “We expect JBS to comply with all of its pollution requirements, not to pick and choose among them.”

Determining whether the JBS wastewater disposal is contributing to ozone pollution is important because the company’s rendering plant is located in a region that is failing to meet air-quality standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency due to high levels of ground-level ozone.

Smog threatens public health by worsening asthma attacks and increasing hospital visits; it can even kill people.

Smog also harms wildlife and ecosystems. The region’s ponderosa pines are particularly sensitive to smog pollution, which can stunt growth and increase risks from disease, weather and insects. Ponderosa pine habitat in the region is critical for several species, including the threatened Mexican spotted owl.

Today’s notice follows a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and Food & Water Watch earlier this year that challenges JBS USA and the JBS-Swift Beef Company’s chronic Clean Water Act permit violations at its Lone Tree Wastewater Treatment Plant, also in Greeley.

The new notice gives JBS USA and the JBS-Swift Beef Company 60 days to resolve the violations. The Center for Biological Diversity and Food & Water Watch are represented in this action by counsel with the nonprofit legal advocacy organization Public Justice, as well as in-house counsel.

Mexican spotted owls
Mexican spotted owls/Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity. This image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Food & Water Watch mobilizes people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people’s health, communities and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.

Public Justice pursues high impact lawsuits to combat social and economic injustice, protect the Earth’s sustainability, and challenge predatory corporate conduct and government abuses.