Cheese Maker to Pay $315K for Polluting Creek in Idaho

Cheese manufacturer Sorrento Lactalis Inc. will pay the United States a $315,000 penalty for excess discharges in violation of its wastewater permit levels, according to an agreement between the company, the Justice Department, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The company discharged the excess pollutants into Mason Creek from its factory operations in Nampa, Idaho, in violation of the Clean Water Act, authorities said.

According to DOJ, Sorrento, which treats wastewater in a facility separate from its cheese-making plant, repeatedly violated its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit over a period of three years from December 2005 to September 2008.

The violations include:

  • Failure to collect and analyze samples;
  • Exceeding its monthly and daily discharge limits for total suspended solids, E. coli, biological oxygen demand, phosphorus and pH; and
  • Failure to notify EPA of its excess discharges in a timely manner.

Mason Creek flows into the Boise River. As EPA and DOJ note, pollutants can degrade water quality, cause harm to fish and other wildlife, and diminish the recreational value of the waters. Under its NPDES permit, Sorrento discharges approximately 650,000 gallons per day of process wastewater. According to DOJ, the company has now brought its Nampa facility into compliance with its permit.

"The Justice Department will strenuously enforce compliance with regulations that protect our waterways," said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. "We will continue to seek penalties when companies fail to comply with their permit obligations."

Jim Werntz, director of the EPA Idaho Office, said, "Companies like Sorrento must manage their waste responsibly and pay close attention to the limits in their permits. We will fine facilities that violate their permit limits and degrade the water quality of Idaho’s rivers and streams."

The Boise River is a salmon habitat with strict water quality limits for nutrients, including phosphorus, which can negatively affect the habitat by promoting algae growth, which depletes oxygen levels and impacts organisms such as fish.

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program controls water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants to surface waters.

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