Monday, March 12, 2012 , Updated 3:56 p.m., March 12, 2012
UPDATED: Company accused of dumping pig blood into Trinity denies wrongdoing
They will close their Oak Cliff slaughterhouse voluntarily but will not close the company.
In January, the Columbia Packing Co. in Dallas was outed in an expose by WFAA for illegally dumping pig's blood and toxic chemicals into the Trinity River. The Dallas city attorney cited the company for "numerous violations," which the city said were unsafe for the public.
Officials of the family-owned Columbia Packing Co. maintain that they have done nothing illegal and that the incident was an accident that occurred because of a clogged sewer line.
"After reading the search warrant and the accusations that were made of Columbia and the Ondrusek family, I was very disappointed; I'm still very disappointed in the all charges that are being made against the family," said Joe Ondrusek, president of Columbia Packing Co. "We have not done anything illegal. There was a problem, we fixed the problem, and we would like to go back to work."
He said in the video below, "We had absolutely no idea of any infractions that we were committing."
[UPDATE: The city of Dallas has jumped into the fray by issuing a statement Monday afternoon saying that they will use "all legal means possible to ensure that Columbia Packing, or any company in the city, is not allowed to continue to discharge illicit waste and potentially harm the public and the environment."
The city says there's a second, hidden pipe on the company's property used to bypass the city's monitoring device of the sewer line.]
In a letter below, Ondrusek says they will close their Oak Cliff slaughterhouse voluntarily but will not close the company. He blames the city for not alerting his company to their infraction: "The city knowingly allowed this overflow to continue for 41 days," reads part of the letter. "Government officials did something my family never would have done -- they allowed products to contaminate the Trinity River for more than a month without taking corrective action."
In a video subtitled "our side of the story," members of the business explain what happened:
Columbia Packing Co.: “Our side of the story”
In a letter sent to Pegasus News by Dodd Communications on Monday, March 12, the president of the company explains their next steps.
Dear Valued Customer,
I am Joe Ondrusek, President of Columbia Packing Co., Inc. My family has operated this business for 99 years, and we now have the fifth generation of our family working in the business. We value our reputation of tradition and quality. Columbia Packing is our family’s heritage and legacy and we will fight to stay in business.
Columbia Packing is not closing its doors.
My great grandfather named our company Columbia, which means “new beginnings”. After almost 100 years in business, again we will embark on a new beginning. Columbia will voluntarily close its slaughter house operation in Oak Cliff. Our family has always said, “Business goes where it’s invited and stays where it is well treated.” We are eager to get back to work. Even though we have been operating legally and we have done nothing wrong, we recognize a long zoning fight to continue the slaughter operation could mean months or years before we could get back to serving our customers.
For our valued customers, nothing will change. We will continue to offer our complete product line and we will continue to proudly bring consumers our expertise in finding and making fresh cut pork, box beef, cheese and our old fashion smoked ham.
The industry of pork processing is a highly regulated business. We have two USDA inspectors in our plant each day of operation. We have regular USDA inspections, and we are required to keep detailed records of all pork processed in our plant. We have an excellent record of safety and quality. The city of Dallas has never previously cited us for health or code violations. We have created 120 jobs in South Dallas and we pride ourselves on being good corporate citizens.
On Thursday, January 19, 2012, approximately 50 individuals from various governmental agencies executed a search warrant at our plant. The search warrant accused Columbia Packing of intentionally dumping waste into the creek located a couple of hundred yards behind our plant.
Let me be very clear: Columbia Packing did not and has not intentionally or knowingly polluted or illegally dumped hazardous materials. Our sewer line ties into a City of Dallas sewer main. It does NOT dump into the creek as has been alleged.
There was a clog in the sewer line near a cleanout valve. When water was used (i.e. washing down after production), the sewer line was backing up causing water to come out an overflow/vent pipe. The city of Dallas apparently knew there was a problem on December 9th, but allowed it to continue and did not notify us until 41 days later when government agencies served search warrants.
Two days before the warrants were served, a Columbia lawn mowing crew discovered the sewer overflow. We immediately called a plumber and took swift action to begin stopping the overflow. The clog was cleared and the line was open and running cleanly into the city’s sewer main in less than 24 hours.
If the city had contacted us on December 9th, the problem would have been fixed the same day. Instead, the city knowingly allowed this overflow to continue for 41 days. Government officials did something my family never would have done- they allowed products to contaminate the Trinity River for more than a month without taking corrective action. The City has full access to our property at all times to test the sewer line. At any time, officials could have entered our property to find the source of the overflow. There is no cross connection between our sewer line and storm water. The City has now dye-tested and camera inspected our sewer lines, and our sewer line is clear and goes to the city sewer main. The city maintains a box on our sewer line that has for years monitored the amount of waste water going through the line and the substances contained in the waste water. The city monitors this locked box on its own schedule.
When the City searched our property they found 18 possible code violations. Within 30 days we addressed and repaired each issue the City brought to our attention. Keep in mind, our Oak Cliff facility has been in operation since the early 1930’s, and the City of Dallas has never cited us for any violations in the past.
You may have read in the newspaper or seen on television accusations that Columbia had a “hidden pipe” on our property. This is a false characterization. What the city of Dallas is alleging is factually incorrect and legally wrong.
During the search of our property, authorities dug many holes looking for a source of contamination. A buried pipe was dug up, but it was an abandoned pipe- not a hidden pipe. The pipe in question was 100 yards away from our plant and was not physically connected in any way to our facility. In fact, when the pipe was removed, it was so compacted with dirt and brick, nothing could have flowed through it. The pipe was so old that we were not even aware it existed. The pipe did not have a use, so we removed it from the property in the presence the Dallas City Attorney’s office. Additionally, the City video taped the abandoned pipe’s removal, so there is proof that this was not a functioning pipe.
We have served our loyal customers for almost a century and we plan to continue offering quality products for the next 100 years to come. Columbia Packing isn’t just a business to us- it’s our family.
President, Columbia Packing Co.
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