AG fines meat processor $86,000 for 'alarming' violations

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WESTMINSTER — The Vermont Attorney General last week fined Westminster Meats $86,000 for numerous violations involving untreated wastewater from animal slaughter being sent into public waterways.

The Agency of Natural Resources fined the Westminster-based meat-packing plant $11,000 in 2014 for similar violations that occurred in 2013, including stored gore from the plant, which flowed down a street in the southeastern Vermont town of Westminster.

The penalties Attorney General T.J. Donovan announced on Tuesday stemmed from incidents that occurred in August 2014, only months after the Vermont Environmental Court settled a 2013 case against Westminster Meats and owner Daniel Mandich.

The AG's office took the most recent case at the ANR's request, said Assistant Attorney General Justin Kolber.

Kim Greenwood, Director of Environmental Compliance at the Department of Environmental Conservation, which is part of ANR, said the attorney general's office was involved in part because there are limits to penalties ANR can assess against violators.

Greenwood called the 2013 incident "particularly egregious" and said both cases were "particularly alarming."

One of the eight violations that led to the most recent penalty involved wastewater pooling on top of the slaughterhouse's leach field, Kolber said. Another had to do with a wastewater system that had failed for two weeks, according to the AG's office.

The most serious violation occurred in August 2014, when a state inspector observed a garden hose being used to empty an overflowing tank of animal wastewater, including blood, into a small stream next to the facility's driveway, Kolber said.

The plant opened in 2010 with a $650,000 loan from the state that Mandich secured at former Gov. Jim Douglas' urging, according to a 2009 press release from the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

Douglas stepped in on Mandich's behalf in 2009 and got ACCD Secretary Kevin Dorn's expedited approval for a $648,000 grant to Westminster, which the town then loaned to Mandich on favorable terms to open the plant.

Connecticut River Bank this summer advertised a foreclosure sale of the meat-packing plant, located at 52 Seafood Lane in Westminster Station.

According to the foreclosure notice, Mandich has owned the plant since 1997.

A representative of the company that was scheduled to auction the meat-packing plant said the foreclosure sale scheduled in September had been cancelled.

A message at number listed for Westminster Meats said the line had been disconnected.

Mandich was not immediately available for comment.

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