Chicken Plant Cited Second Time
DEQ Says George’s Exceeded Ammonia Discharge Limit For Stony Creek
Posted: November 9, 2012
Rain from Hurricane Sandy swells Stony Creek on Oct. 30 near the top of a span on Senedo Road near Edinburg. A day earlier, a George’s Inc. plant in Edinburg reported to the Department of Environmental Quality that it was emitting higher-than-permitted levels of ammonia into the creek. (Photo by Kaitlin Mayhew)
Gary Flory, agricultural and compliance manager for the DEQ’s Harrisonburg office, said employees at the George’s Inc. plant in Edinburg reported on Oct. 29 that the facility’s wastewater plant was emitting higher-than-permitted levels of ammonia into Stony Creek.
Flory said citizen groups also reported a “different look” to the river discharge around the same time. He said some slight bubbling in the water is one sign that could indicate a higher-than-usual ammonia discharge.
“It isn’t necessarily discoloration; just that something doesn’t look quite right,” he said.
In August, the same plant was cited for heightened levels of ammonia and nitrogen in the creek.
Bob Kenney, vice president of Virginia operations for George’s, said the plant is tested daily so these kinds of problems can be dealt with as soon as they occur.
“We are trying to monitor the whole process,” he said.
In August, the nitrogen and ammonia levels were returned to normal within a week. The October discharge, however, is more serious.
“It is a good bit more complicated because they have not been able to correct it. In this case, they don’t know exactly what caused the problem,” said Flory. “We are coming up on two weeks” since it was discovered.
In August, the problem was found relatively quickly. Officials determined that the natural bacteria that normally breaks down the harmful components had died, therefore letting solid waste particles and excess nitrogen and ammonia through the system and into the creek.
Although high water levels resulting from Hurricane Sandy and other recent storms help to dilute ammonia levels, certain concentrations could prove toxic to insects and creatures that feed on the river bottom.
“It is definitely a situation that needs to be resolved,” Flory said. “They are the foundation of the food chain.”
The permit allows the plant to release up to 8.9 parts per million of ammonia into the water. Flory said readings compiled as recently as Wednesday showed levels of ammonia between 34 and 36 ppm.
George’s officials met with the DEQ on Wednesday and the company sent an engineer to visit the plant Thursday.
Flory said he is confident that George’s is taking the incident seriously and working cooperatively with the DEQ, making daily reports.
The DEQ also has asked the plant to conduct several tests. The plant does, however, remain in operation at normal capacity, officials say.
“Reducing the flow is not always the proper solution,” he said.
In this case, Flory said, the nutrient removal process requires a constant supply of nutrients to grow the bacteria necessary to regenerate and get the plant functioning properly.
Contact Kaitlin Mayhew at 574-6290 or firstname.lastname@example.org