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Smithfield Foods Dumps Ammonia in Big Sioux River, DENR Boosts Wiener Brands

Yesterday’s flood-spawning rain in Sioux Falls put a damper on Sunday outings, but we can hope it also helped dilute some of the ammonia Smithfield Foods dumped into the Big Sioux River last week.

According to the DENR, the Sioux Falls pork-packing plant reported violating its surface water discharge permit on August 15:

On Aug. 15, Smithfield Foods reported its wastewater treatment plant had an upset.  Consequently, ammonia concentrations in the discharge from their Sioux Falls facility are higher than the regulatory limits in their Surface Water Discharge Permit.  Levels could pose threats to fish life, but no risks to human health [Department of Environment and Natural Resources, “Wastewater Treatment Plant Upset at Smithfield Foods,” press release, 2018.08.17].

“Upset” seems an unusual term to use in this context. Does “upset” differ from “accident” or “failure”?

DENR Secretary Steve Pirner says, “it appears Smithfield Foods is responding appropriately.” DENR appears sufficiently unconcerned that it takes time in its official press release to advertise for Smithfield Foods:

Smithfield Foods operates a pork production facility in Sioux Falls, employing about 3,500 people. Smithfield produces fresh pork, bacon, deli meats, hot dogs, and smoked meats marketed under brand names such as Smithfield®, Eckrich®, Nathan’s Famous®, Farmland®, Armour®, Cook’s®, and John Morrell® [DENR, 2018.08.17].

After DENR gets done hawking wieners, let’s hope they take this spill as an opportunity to update Smithfield Foods’ pollution permit.


  1. Donald Pay 2018-08-20 10:16

    This is the lackadaisical way DENR approaches things. I notice there is no detail as to concentrations in the outflow, no detail as to steps taken to monitor in the river for water quality or damage to aquatic resources, no detail as to what went wrong, no requirement for the company to report what went wrong, nor order to fix anything by a certain date, etc. I wonder how often this occurs?

  2. Porter Lansing 2018-08-20 11:19

    Absolutely, Don. What a “puff job” by DENR. No visual signs of pollution? No damage to humans? How do they know? They haven’t done enough tests to make a public health statement like that. (Chicago just released info that tens of thousands of East Chicago kids have been drinking contaminated water all their lives, after that water was declared safe a decade ago.)
    Thanks, Cory. – I’m culinarily familiar with all these brands of pork products but didn’t know they’re all Commie Hog. [Smithfield®, Eckrich®, Nathan’s Famous®, Farmland®, Armour®, Cook’s®, and John Morrell®.] PS … They’re all second level, flavor profile pork. IMO

  3. Donald Pay 2018-08-20 11:37


    Yeah, “puff job” is the right word. And the Chinese connection reminds me DENR’s approach resembles the assurances my daughter hears all the time in Beijing. Meanwhile, she’s put on her gas mask so she can inhale.

  4. Rorschach 2018-08-20 12:03

    Let’s hope DENR conducts an investigation to see what went wrong and that the problem has been corrected – then issues a report with detailed findings. What are the odds of that?

  5. mike from iowa 2018-08-20 12:21

    korporate gods must be smiling. Free nitrogen spill. Free publicity. A korporation’s wet dream, no pun intended.

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