Murphy-Brown faces new legal challenge in old lawsuit

Groups allege Murphy-Brown has failed to comply with agreement reached in 2006.

Southern Environmental Law Center recently filed a new motion on behalf of Waterkeeper Alliance and Sound Rivers groups seeking to require Murphy-Brown to comply with a 2006 agreement to clean up groundwater contamination at hog facilities in eastern North Carolina.

Murphy-Brown, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods Inc, the largest pork producer in the world, had faced four different legal challenges relating to Clean Water Act violations, before a 2006 agreement with Waterkeeper Alliance and the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation (now Sound Rivers Inc.) was reached.

The new motion alleges that Murphy-Brown has failed to comply with a central component of the agreement—remedying demonstrated groundwater hazards at 11 of its hog facilities in North Carolina.

“Murphy Brown has not upheld its commitment to address significant risks to groundwater from its hog facilities, and as a result, its facilities continue to threaten water quality in eastern North Carolina,” said Geoff Gisler, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.  “We’re asking the court to require the company to make good on its promises.”

Under the terms of the agreement, an independent groundwater expert chosen by the parties evaluated Murphy-Brown owned and operated swine facilities in eastern North Carolina for potential contamination of groundwater by swine waste.  That review identified 11 facilities with demonstrated threats to groundwater.  As part of the review, the expert identified additional groundwater sampling needed to ensure that groundwater contamination at each site is cleaned up.

But now, the groups allege Murphy-Brown refuses to allow the consultant to take necessary groundwater samples.  Through the motion, SELC is asking the court to require the company to adhere to the requirements of the agreement between the parties and allow the consultant to gather necessary data to develop corrective action plans for each of the 11 identified sites that pose a threat to groundwater.

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