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US Supreme Court Won't Hear Poultry Firm's Appeal

Tue, 10/04/2011 - 9:03am
Emery P. Dalesio, AP Business Writer

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected poultry processor House of Raeford Inc.'s bid to stave off criminal charges accusing the North Carolina-based company of willfully releasing turkey remains into waterways in violation of a federal clean water law.

The high court denied the company's request to consider arguments that it can't be prosecuted because it's already paid nearly $1 million in pollution fines and shouldn't be punished twice. The Supreme Court's decision means the case goes back to a federal district court in Winston-Salem for trial.

A federal grand jury indicted House of Raeford and Raeford turkey processing plant manager Gregory Steenblock in 2009 on charges of violating the federal Clean Water Act. An indictment accuses the company and Steenblock of knowingly bypassing the plant's water treatment system 14 times in 2005 and 2006, dumping turkey feathers, blood and internal organs into a municipal sewage treatment plant.

A company spokesman referred a call seeking comment Monday to Greensboro attorney Kearns Davis.

"We respect the Supreme Court's decision not to hear the case at this stage. We look forward to the facts coming out in U.S. District Court," Davis said in an email.

Privately owned House of Raeford processes chickens and turkeys in eight plants in North Carolina, South Carolina and Louisiana.

Federal prosecutors said the company's Raeford processing plant couldn't handle the daily flow of 1 million gallons of wastewater and sent untreated water to the city's municipal sewage treatment works.

The bypasses and failure to report them violated an earlier agreement by House of Raeford to stop releasing untreated waste from the plant where more than 30,000 turkeys a day were processed, federal prosecutors said.

The company said it completed a $1.4 million pretreatment facility in September 2006.

"It worked as designed. The problems were solved," the company said in 2009.

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