BLOUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WIAT) — On Tuesday, the Friends of Locust Fork River rallied ahead of an Alabama Department of Environmental Management public hearing. 

Since June, the group has been working to convince ADEM to issue a stricter pollution permit to the Blountsville Tyson Food plant.  

“They’ve been allowed to get away with putting way too much pollution in the form of nutrients and bacteria into this river for a long time,” Nelson Brooke of Black Warrior Riverkeeper said, “and it’s time that the next step is taken for a better regime.”

The permit is actually a renewal. A spokesperson for Tyson explained that the plant applied for the renewal in September of 2016. They revised the application in 2017 and made a request to go into the Locust Fork directly. However, the spokesman said, following an engineering study and speaking to residents and local leaders they made the request to ADEM to have the discharge into Locust Fork removed from their permit.  

“Tyson expects when the permit is used in whatever form it is, that there will not be a discharge to Locust Fork,” said Rod Hance, complex environmental manager for Tyson’s North Alabama region. “Also, to clarify, the renewal application made in 2016 and 2017 do not have an increase or an expansion involved with the Blountsville plant. Tyson had no plans at the time, we have no plans at this time to expand the Blountsville plant or waste water discharge.”

However, concerned community members, biologists and volunteers continued to approach the microphone to express their concerns about the permit draft.

“We want to see a better permit in place from ADEM for this facility, which is a major polluter,” Brooke said.  “We don’t think the permit is protective enough of the river or public health.”

“Tyson is committed to being a good corporate citizen in Blountsville and anywhere that we have a facility,” Hance said. “Our team members come to work everyday and diligently work to make sure we’re protecting the environment, meeting the requirements of our permit, and meeting the requirements of state and federal agencies.”

Many of the public speakers implored ADEM to take Tyson up on their promise to be good stewards of the environment by “raising the bar.” Many pointed out that Tyson has plants in other states that meet much more stringent requirements.

“We’ll look at those comments, we’ll review,” said Lynn Battle of ADEM’s Office of External Affairs. “[We’ll] compare it to the regulations and the permit requirements and then we will make a decision as to whether the permit will be issued or not, and what will be in the permit.”