DES MOINES (DTN)--Tyson Foods pleaded guilty June 25 to violating the federal Clean Water Act and agreed to pay $7.5 million in fines for dumping untreated wastewater from its central Missouri chicken processing plant, reports the Associated Press.

In the plea agreement, Tyson admitted that between September 1998 and March 2001 it repeatedly discharged untreated wastewater from its Sedalia, MO, poultry plant into a tributary of the Lamine River. It also acknowledged that employees at the plant knew about the discharges.

The company, the nation's largest meat producer, agreed to pay a $5.5 million fine to the federal government and $2 million to the state.

Tyson also will be on probation for three years, will hire an independent consultant to perform an environmental audit and will implement an improved environmental management program.

The company's state permit, issued under the federal Clean Water Act, requires Tyson to treat wastewater before discharging it into the stream.

"We regret that these failures occurred," Tyson general counsel Les Baledge told the judge. "You have the company's commitment that it will work hard to make sure they don't recur."

Prosecutors alleged that over the last decade Tyson repeatedly ignored civil fines, state orders and other violation notices as the wastewater discharges continued.

The 1,000-acre Sedalia complex includes a hatchery, feed mill and rendering plant and its own wastewater plant. It processes about 1 million chickens per week and generates hundreds of thousands of gallons of wastewater per day.

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