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Darling Ingredients fined $15,000 for environmental violations

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has fined Darling Ingredients, owner of the Dorchester County Valley Proteins animal waste rendering plant, US$15,000 for repeated violations that could pollute waterways.

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The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has fined Darling Ingredients, owner of the Dorchester County Valley Proteins animal waste rendering plant, US$15,000 for repeated violations that could pollute waterways.

The plant processes poultry byproducts, including dead birds, feathers, bone, meat, fat, blood and other poultry parts.

The fines are linked to 51 recent violations of a requirement to leave at least two feet of empty capacity in wastewater lagoons. The empty space, called freeboard, is needed to prevent overflows and spills during heavy rains or other conditions that could cause pollution to be washed into rivers and streams. 

MDE inspections revealed violations occurring between August 2023 and March 2024, as detailed in a May 24 enforcement letter that MDE sent to the company. Recent MDE inspections have found dozens of other pollution violations not listed in the letter. Darling Ingredients has 14 days to respond to MDE’s letter.

Due to violations in previous years, the plant has been under a consent decree since October 2022 with MDE, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), ShoreRivers and Dorchester Citizens for Planned Growth. That agreement ordered the facility’s owners to pay US$540,000 in civil penalties to the state of Maryland to partially account for more than 40 violations to a state-issued discharge permit.

MDE’s action this week is for new violations observed since the consent decree went into effect. The consent decree, approved by Dorchester County Circuit Court, authorizes MDE to order financial penalties for failures to comply with the agreement’s terms. 

In a separate matter, in February 2023, CBF, Dorchester Citizens for Planned Growth (DCPG), Friends of the Nanticoke River, ShoreRivers and Wicomico Environmental Trust challenged the renewed wastewater discharge permit that MDE issued for the facility. The suit filed in Dorchester County Circuit Court states the permit is not sufficiently stringent to protect water quality in the downstream Transquaking River, Higgins Mill Pond and Chesapeake Bay.

CBF Maryland Advocacy Director Alan Girard issued the following statement:

“Time and again, the Darling Ingredients plant has committed violations that could cause harm to Eastern Shore waterways. We’re grateful that the Maryland Department of the Environment is stepping up to levy fines and enforce the terms of the consent decree. The Bay’s health depends on consistent and timely enforcement of laws and regulations designed to protect our environment.”

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