Sunrise Farms, a unit of Sonstegard Foods, based in Sioux Falls, S.D. has been ordered to pay a civil penalty of $46,000 after a fish kill in 2015.
On September 28, 2015, a fish kill was reported by someone near Everly. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources investigated and traced the dead fish back up Stony Creek and a tributary to Sunshine Farms’ facility near Harris. The fish kill, which the DNR said included minnows and chubs as well as a few larger fish, extended 18.2 miles and killed a total of about 163,000 fish valued at over $25,800, according to DNR officials. Environmental specialists from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources were able to detect high ammonia levels along several sampling points on the stream during the investigation.
According to court records, Sunshine Farms does have a permit for the discharge of wastewater from their egg breaking operation, but it stipulates that it’s supposed to be stored in a five-cell lagoon system until it can be disposed of by land application on adjacent land, which is to be accomplished via center-pivot irrigation. The investigation showed that it had been at least a year since the irrigation system was used, so they ruled that out as a cause of the fish kill.
The investigation found that around September 2015, Sunrise Farms bypassed its wastewater lagoons and directly dumped in a field at least twelve truckloads of egg wash wastewater from the egg facility, each with a capacity of 1,500 gallons.
The IDNR’s fish kill investigation costs totaled about $900. On November 23, 2015, Sunrise Farms made a payment to the IDNR, totaling $26,709.56, in restitution for the fish killed and the IDNR’s investigation costs.
The DNR then turned the case over to the Iowa Attorney General’s office, requesting civil penalties and injunctive relief against Sunrise Farms. In addition to the wastewater violation, the DNR also said Sunrise constructed two buildings at the Sunrise Farms P5 facility without first obtaining the proper construction permits.
This past week, Judge Carl Peterson approved the consent decree and ordered Sunrise to pay the civil penalty of $46,000 within ten days.