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Slaughterhouse opponents told Cavel has 3 months to make fixes

Published: Thursday, Feb. 22, 2007 12:00 a.m. CDT
Cavel International Manager Jim Tucker (center) listens to Sycamore residents and Cavel opponents Dawn Mancina and Angela Valianos as they address the DeKalb Sanitary Board Wednesday during a meeting on wastewater treatment. Chronicle photo HOLLY LUNDH

DeKALB - A DeKalb horse slaughterhouse will have to correct repeated violations of its sewage discharge permit by May 31 or face getting shut down, a pair of activists were told Wednesday. Cavel International, one of only three plants in the country that kills horses for human consumption overseas, has been exceeding its allowable &#8220biochemical oxygen demand,” or BOD, levels since 2004. The violations stem from the plant having too much organic material in the wastewater it has been sending into the local sewer system. The DeKalb Sanitary Board on Wednesday heard from two women who did not ask about the plant's current violations, but questioned why the district would allow the plant to discharge waste from slaughtered horses that are not screened for drugs. The plant's permit says it can be revoked if the plant fails to disclose dangerous toxic substances being discharged, they said. The two Sycamore women, Angela Valianos and Dawn Mancina, said they've spent hours on the telephone learning about human carcinogens shot into horses that are not meant for consumption but end up at Cavel. The women presented the board with a packet of information with the names of various chemicals and pharmaceuticals that may be found in horses. &#8220There are more things going into the water that we are not aware of,” Valianos said. Mancina said she doesn't like horse slaughter but is more concerned with the water. The treated water discharged from the sanitary district goes into the Kishwaukee River, which is not a source of potable water, district Manager Mike Zima said. District President Dennis Collins said the district is not violating U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards. Cavel International Manager Jim Tucker said at Wednesday afternoon's meeting his company's wastewater pretreatment system should be up to standards by March 31. The horse-slaughtering plant has been repeatedly fined for violating the terms of its permit because of high BOD levels. It was fined $500 in 2004, $5,500 in 2005 and $25,500 for violations in January through September 2006. The plant was shut down after a 2002 fire, and when it reopened in 2004, its pretreatment system could no longer manage the plant's discharge. A new system has been put into place and has been operational, with some glitches, for about two weeks, Tucker said. The plant has had 17 violations since September, but the district agreed to temporarily halt any additional enforcement activities until March 31, Zima said. On the issue of human carcinogens, Zima said, &#8220On a personal level, if it's in the meat, it's disturbing.” But he said that until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture determine allowed levels of chemicals in the meat, there is nothing the sanitary district can do. Tucker said the Belgium-owned plant is USDA-inspected and the meat is certified and fit for human consumption. As the two women left the meeting, they said they are not finished fighting to have the plant shuttered. &#8220(The district) absolutely (refuses) to hear that that place is doing anything wrong,” Mancina said. But Valianos, who said she has dedicated three years of her life to studying the problems at the plant, said Cavel will be closed down. &#8220We'll get them,” she said. Cavel and the two horse slaughterhouses in Texas have been targeted by anti-horse-slaughter activists nationwide, including Willie Nelson and Bo Derek. A bill before Congress would close down operations at Cavel and the two other plants. Aracely Hernandez can be reached at ahernandez@daily-chronicle.com.

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