The City of Cabool last week sued the town’s largest employer over allegations of multiple illegal discharges into the community’s wastewater treatment plant that it says has caused damage, depleted municipal coffers and could threaten the nearby Big Piney River.
A judge last week issued a temporary restraining order that bars Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) from discharging untreated waste material into the city’s system. A hearing on the matter is Sept. 19.
In its 13-page petition filed late last Tuesday, attorneys for the City of Cabool say DFA operates its own wastewater treatment plant that handles waste from the facility at Metrecal Trace Street before releasing it into the city’s system. Both plants are regulated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources under permits.
Cabool alleges DFA and its general manager, Jeff Inman, failed to correct “the improper numerous discharges of untreated discharged waste materials from DFA.” Because of the problem, the city alleges an “intentional cover up and conceal[ment] of numerous discharges of untreated discharged waste materials from DFA” in violation of state and federal law relating to treatment of waste products.
The city cites 26 incidents beginning Feb. 12, 2018, from Aug. 21, 2019, that it detected material that hadn’t been pre-treated before it arrived at the city plant, which it said is in violation of its state permit. The discharges, the city alleges, have damaged its facility and prompted it to hire an independent testing firm to provide it results of materials arrived at its plant.
The incidents have been costly for taxpayers, the city alleges:
•It was forced to invest in expensive mitigation technology and equipment to combat the issue and on some occasions, the DFA discharges has caused it to violate its own permits and discharge waste materials into water systems to keep its sewer plant functioning.
•It has spent more than $400,000 in emergency services and protective actions and estimates millions more will be needed to correct the damage.
At one point, the city said it willingly purchased special products requested by DFA to mitigate the damage only to have the unused portion returned after a bill arrived at the firm.
Attorneys say the city met with DFA officials several times to talk about the damage, but the untreated material continued to flow into the city’s system.
Later, Inman and DFA, according to lawsuit, failed to respond to the city’s requests to visit and ignored notices to DFA about the problem. By July 31, 2019, DFA was found to be in violation of its permits after a DNR inspection 15 days earlier.
The city is asked for unspecified millions in actual costs incurred, punitive damages for DFA’s alleged intentional acts and lawyer fees.
The DFA plant sought and received special taxing incentives from a plant expansion in 2016 that added about another 50,000 square feet to its more than 50-year-old campus and allowed for the purchase of about $30 million in equipment. The move allowed the Kansas City, Kan.- based company to add a glass bottling line and bring an estimated 45 to 50 new jobs to its existing workforce of about 125, according to the firm.
As part of the project, entities in Texas County offered special taxing incentives to lure the expansion to Cabool. A 75 percent real estate and personal property tax abatement for 10 years was approved.