Cargill Inc. will pay $70,000 to settle allegations by two environmental groups that it violated the Clean Water Act by letting polluted rainwater run off its animal feed plant in Ferndale, Wash., according to a court record filed Friday.
Cargill, the largest privately owned U.S. company, also agreed to pay $37,584 in attorney fees and make operational changes at the plant.
“We are very pleased that Cargill is taking these additional steps to protect water quality,” said Ann Russell, clean water manager for Bellingham-based RE Sources for Sustainable Communities.
RE Sources and Puget Soundkeeper Alliance sued Cargill in August in U.S. District Court for Western Washington. The environmental groups alleged that the company over several years had discharged stormwater that was too cloudy and had too much zinc and copper. The contaminated water flowed into Schell Creek, the Lummi River and Puget Sound, according to the lawsuit.
It was previously reported that a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit last week at the request of both sides. The terms of the settlement were disclosed with the court Friday. Judge Robert Lasnik must approve the settlement.
Cargill did not admit to any of the allegations. The Minnesota-based company said in a written statement that it was in everyone’s interest to settle and that it has worked with the Washington Department of Ecology and city of Ferndale to comply with stormwater regulations.
The $70,000 settlement will be sent to the California-based Rose Foundation. In a letter to the court, the foundation said the money will fund environmental projects, preferably in the Lummi River watershed.
Cargill planned to install additional water treatment equipment, repair damaged asphalt and regularly sweep the plant, according to the settlement.
Cargill reported $109 billion in revenue during the company’s fiscal year that ended May 31.
The Rose Foundation awards grants from the Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund. The fund was created in 2012 with $1,5 million that Puget Soundkeeper received in a settlement from Burlington Northern Santa Fe, now known as BNSF Railway.
Several other settlements in lawsuits filed by Puget Soundkeeper have added to the fund. According to the foundation’s website, it has distributed $2.5 million for projects involving conservation, citizen science and environmental justice.
The attorney fees will go to Seattle law firm Smith & Lowney.