An environmental advocacy group says one of the largest employers in our area is the biggest water polluter in the state.
A newly released report by "Environment Texas" claims Sanderson Farms, a company that processes and packages chickens for delivery to supermarkets, dumped 1.5 million pounds of toxic chemicals into Cottonwood Branch creek in 2010. The creek is near Sanderson Farms and runs through the southwest corner of downtown Bryan.
"Sanderson Farms discharges nitrate into the water which can be harmful to infants if it gets into the drinking water,” said Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas.
The environment advocacy group says it looked at data from the Environmental Protection Agency to compile their report.
"We monitor that water and monitor the discharge two or three times a week,” said Mike Cockrell with Sanderson Farms.
Sanderson Farms produces a lot of chicken waste. When processed, the waste produces ammonia naturally. Exposure to high levels of ammonia can cause permanent damage to the eyes and lungs, but Sanderson Farms says that ammonia is treated at their plant, and the clean water is then dumped into the creek.
“We make sure we stay well below or way above their standards,” said Cockrell.
For the past 10 years, Sanderson Farms has not been in any violation with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, so we asked the advocacy group why their clean record isn't reflective of their possibly contaminated water.
"Unfortunately these companies have a lot of political power here in the state of Texas,” said Metzger.
Environment Texas is planning on getting lawmakers involved in regulating water ways like Cottonwood Branch Creek.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality released this statement:
"While we cannot comment on claims such as this without knowing specifics on how the data was manipulated, we can say all permitted discharges to Texas waters meet both state and federal guidelines and are protective of human health and the environment."