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6 Investigates: Sewage spill behind local packing plant prompts state investigation

Posted: 6:04 PM, Dec 11, 2018
Updated: 2018-12-15 04:21:05-05

A sewage spill behind a local meat packing plant has raised environmental concerns and prompted a state investigation.

It’s also further underscored the financial troubles of the struggling Kane Beef Processing Plant, which for the past two months has been in federal receivership to find a new owner and keep the plant in operation.

More than 800 people work at the plant on Leopard Street.

Last week, about 75,000 gallons of sewage spilled out of a manhole off North Clarkwood Road behind the plant. The City of Corpus Christi alerted the state on Tuesday, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

KRIS 6 News contacted the state after receiving several calls from people who live near the plant and complained about a foul smell.

“It’s unbearable when it’s like a hundred degrees outside, and I’m an outside person,” said Lynda Spurlock, who lives across Leopard Street from the plant. “I like working in my yard. You can’t. You have to go in because it’s so stifling and it gets into your nose.”

Even though the plant has been open for decades, Spurlock said she began to notice the foul odor about two years ago, when it was acquired by its most recent owners – a Venezuelan group.

The recent sewage spill only contributed to her concerns.

City officials told the state the spill was caused by a clog in the sewer line and attributed it to Kane Beef.

“Monday, the city called because they had this clog and they were concerned about our wastewater,” said attorney Richard Schmidt, appointed receiver of Kane Beef and a former federal judge. “We’ve had a continual wastewater problem.”

A problem that Schmidt mentioned he became aware of two months ago when he was appointed as receiver to oversee the plant’s operations and find a new owner. The company’s on-site wastewater treatment process was’t working as it should have, he said.

As a part of the meat packing process, residual fat and particles have to be managed so they don’t end up in the city’s system.

Schmidt says that has been corrected and he’s hired a chemical company and engineering firm to make further improvements.

“And the net result of that has been that our wastewater system right now – the water is very clean,” Schmidt said. “And our wastewater system is now working the way it was designed.”

As for the recent sewage spill, the state has an active investigation to determine who is responsible. Whiel the plant has had its problems, Schmidt said the clog was on the city’s line, which had not be cleaned out in a long time.

Kane Beef is still working to pay back $2.1 million for past due utility bills. The company was put on a plan to repay the overdue amount, and so far, haven’t missed any payments. Kane Beef says the balance due is less than $1 million and should be paid in full  within six months.