EPA Releases New Meat, Poultry Standards

The Environmental Protection Agency recently released new standards for the discharge of wastewater from meat processing and poultry processing facilities.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently released new standards for the discharge of wastewater from meat processing and poultry processing facilities.

The Meat and Poultry Products regulation affects about 170 facilities that discharge wastewater from slaughtering, rendering, and other processes such as cleaning, cutting, and smoking. The rule also establishes, for the first time, national effluent limitations for poultry processors.

The new rule is designed to reduce discharges of conventional pollutants, ammonia, and nitrogen to rivers, lakes, and streams. Nutrients, including nitrogen, are the fifth leading type of pollutants contributing to the impairment of rivers and streams. Nutrients are the leading contributor of pollutants to impaired lakes.

Nitrogen occurs in MPP discharges in several forms, including ammonia and nitrate. Ammonia is toxic to aquatic life and reduces the level of oxygen in the waterbody. Too much ammonia and other forms of nitrogen can lead to fish kills, reduced biodiversity, and growth of toxic organisms.

The final rule applies to direct discharges of wastewater from existing and new:

• Meat first processors (slaughterhouses) that slaughter more than 50 million pounds per year;
• Meat further processors that generate more than 50 million pounds per year of finished products (examples: bacon or sausage);
• Independent renderers of meat and poultry products that use greater than 10 million pounds per year of raw material;
• Poultry first processors (slaughterhouses) that slaughter more than 100 million pounds per year; and
• Poultry further processors that generate more than 7 million pounds per year of finished products (examples: ready-to-cook chicken cutlets or ground turkey).

The final rule also applies to direct discharges of wastewater from new poultry processors at lower production thresholds. Specifically, the final rule applies to new:

• Poultry first processors (slaughterhouses) that slaughter less than or equal to 100 million pounds per year; and
• Poultry further processors that generate less than or equal to 7 million pounds per year of finished products.

The regulation revises the existing effluent guidelines for the meat industry by adding ammonia and total nitrogen limits for meat slaughterhouses, and total nitrogen limits for meat further processors and independent renderers. For poultry slaughterhouses and further processors, the rule establishes limits for conventional pollutants, ammonia, and total nitrogen.

EPA estimates reductions in the discharge of total nitrogen of about 27 million pounds per year and reductions of conventional pollutants (e.g., BOD, total suspended solids, oil and grease) of about 4 million pounds per year. EPA estimates water quality benefits of about $2.6 million, primarily from increased recreational opportunities, such as swimming and fishing. There are likely to be other ecological benefits, although these are harder to quantify. EPA estimates compliance costs of $58 million per year.

For more information, call Samantha Lewis at (202) 566-1058, or send an email to lewis.samantha@epa.gov. You can also learn more about this final rule by visiting EPA's Internet web site at: http://www.epa.gov/guide/mpp.

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