Shutdown of facility follows state order; DEP says closure was voluntary
A Loganton company facing disciplinary action by the state Department of Environmental Protection has not been ordered by the agency to shut down its operations.
DEP issued a statement Thursday confirming enforcement measures against Nicholas Meat were done to ensure regulations are followed in order to protect the environment and public health.
“The choice to shut down facility operations is solely theirs,” DEP officials noted.
On Feb. 9, the company was ordered to stop land application of food processing residual (FPR) to snow-covered fields.
DEP’s action was the result of increased potential for runoff due to the uncertain field conditions underneath the snow and the potential for increased runoff primarily due to melt.
Earlier this week, company officials released a statement that noted its application of “nutrient-rich and organic FPR to farmland year-round, including when snow is present on fields, using best management practices and in accordance with the relevant regulations for more than a decade.”
Nicholas Meat recently appealed DEP’s order to the Environmental Hearing Board and to be relieved of the order’s obligations until a hearing on the matter.
The hearing board has denied requests and ruled the order to be in effect.
Company officials have noted that hundreds of farmers and cattle buyers in the state rely on Nicholas Meat for harvesting of cattle.
DEP officials in their statement note that Nicholas Meat has expanded operations in recent years, “while the storage for the residual waste the process generates has not kept up.”
The statement goes on to say that the growth of operations coupled with a “unusually long snowpack and no backup plan, is the genesis of this issue.”
DEP noted it issued permits to Nicholas Meat to construct a waste digester, “which is hoped to provide a long-term, sustainable solution.”
Company officials contend that approval was given Feb. 11 to construct a comprehensive Sustainable Resources Facility that will result in an advanced wastewater treatment system allowing the company to reclaim up to 90 percent of water used and convert FPR into renewable energy to reduce Nicholas Meat’s carbon footprint and greenhouse emissions.
DEP noted that winter application of FPRs should follow standard practices established for manure handling.
From both a nutrient utilization and pollution point of view, winter application of manure is the least desirable due to frozen soil surfaces that can prevent rain and melting snow from carrying nutrients into the soil, according to DEP.
Nicholas Meat officials said the shut down of the FPR application and temporary closure of the plant impacts 350 essential plant employees and 150 contract workers.