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Cavel fined for violating city wastewater rules

DeKALB - A horse-slaughtering plant targeted last year by animal rights activists and some state lawmakers has been fined by the DeKalb Sanitary District for consistently exceeding a wastewater discharge guideline. Sanitary District Manager Mike Zima said the violations at Cavel International on DeKalb's south side do not pose a public health hazard, but they do put pressure on the district's sanitary treatment processes. "There's too much animal residue in that wastewater," Zima said. "It can unfairly take space out of the treatment plant." Cavel was ordered to pay a $500 fine. It's the first time in at least eight years that an industrial user of DeKalb's sanitary system has been found in "significant noncompliance" of discharge standards, Zima said. Cavel is a Belgian company that slaughters horses and sells their meat outside the United States. It reopened in June after being destroyed in a 2002 fire and after fighting off attempts in the General Assembly to stop it from reopening by making it illegal to slaughter horses for human consumption. In every month from July to December of last year, Cavel exceeded its allowable "biochemical oxygen demand," or BOD, levels because it had high amounts of organic material in the water it was sending to the district to be treated. That placed the plant in what the sanitary district calls "significant noncompliance," and the district was required to give public notice of the violations. Zima and Cavel General Manager Jim Tucker said Cavel continues to exceed its allowable BOD levels in 2005. Tucker blamed the violations on problems with a pretreatment system the plant uses to treat its wastewater before it goes to the sanitary district. "The pretreatment system is operating," he said. "We take out most of what's in the water. ... We've had trouble with our chemistry to take out the blood." He said the company has already spent about $150,000 on the system, which he was hoping could be fixed within a week. But he added that getting the system working properly has been a struggle. The problem with the plant's pretreatment system has not stopped the plant from operating as normal, he said. Cavel was one of seven industrial businesses licensed to discharge sewage in the sanitary district in 2004. It regularly pays extra to have its wastewater treated, and Zima said the pressure put on the plant because of the wastewater violations is not putting any additional financial strain on the district. Cavel's DeKalb slaughter plant is one of only three horse-slaughtering plants in the United States. Some in the horse industry consider the plants' practices inhumane, but others, including some veterinarians, see the slaughterhouses as a logical way to dispose of horses no one wants. Chris Rickert can be reached at crickert@pulitzer.net.

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