A dozen environmental and animal rights groups are suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its decision not to update regulations that limit how much pollution from slaughterhouses can flow into rivers.
In October, the agency announced it would not revise federal water standards for plants that discharge their processed wastewater directly into waterways, something critics say puts rivers at risk of being overwhelmed by nitrogen, spurring algae blooms that suffocate fish as well as plant life needed to keep rivers healthy.
The suit asks for judicial review of the decision to not update regulations that were last revised about 15 years ago and date back decades.
“Some of EPA’s technological requirements for slaughterhouses date from the mid-1970s. Technology has changed a lot since then, and EPA needs to catch up,” said Alexis Andiman with Earthjustice, one of the attorneys for the suit. “EPA’s failure to update pollution standards for slaughterhouses is illegal—and it allows a major industry to continue cutting corners at the expense of communities and the environment.”
The suit was filed on behalf of the Environmental Integrity Project, Food & Water Watch and the Humane Society of the United States, among others.
The EPA said it would not comment on the pending litigation.
“EPA’s national standards for water pollution from slaughterhouses are either weak and outdated or nonexistent,” Sylvia Lam, an attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project, said in a statement. “It is well past time for EPA to crack down on this public health hazard. Cleaner plants have already installed technology to lessen the pollution they send into their local rivers and streams. By not updating these nationwide standards, EPA is rewarding dirty slaughterhouses at the expense of the public.”
The suit follows a move from the EPA in June to weaken reporting requirements for major farms to document pollution from animal waste.
Across many industrial farms in the U.S., animal waste is collected and stored in open pits often called lagoons. As the manure decomposes it emits ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, which are linked to respiratory issues and other health problems.
People who live near farms have long complained of the odor, but they also attribute asthma, headaches, nausea and a stinging sensation in their lungs to farm pollution. But farms have called the reporting requirements onerous.
Updated at 5:13 p.m.