Humane society to sue Cavel if it doesn't clean up

Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2007 12:00 a.m. CDT
Frozen foam could be seen overflowing a water-holding tank on Feb. 18 at Cavel International, a horse-slaughtering plant in DeKalb. Chronicle file photo CURTIS CLEGG

DeKALB - The Humane Society of the United States will sue Cavel International unless the DeKalb horse slaughterhouse cleans up its wastewater discharge within 60 days, according to documents filed with the federal government on Tuesday. The HSUS notified Cavel, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency of its intent to sue, HSUS spokesman Jon Lovvorn said. The 60-day notice is required under federal law before a lawsuit can be filed. The notice alleges that Cavel has repeatedly violated the federal Clean Water Act by releasing &#8220excessive animal residue” into the DeKalb sewer system. &#8220Everybody knows we've been campaigning against horse slaughter, but when you combine that with a facility that has had a lot of problems, it's time to rethink that (facility's) direction,” Lovvorn said. Cavel manager Jim Tucker referred questions about the threatened lawsuit to an industry lobbyist, who referred them to attorney Vincent Atriano, who did not immediately return a call for comment. Lovvorn said the animal-rights organization frequently gets involved in environmental protection actions, though he said a campaign to end horse slaughter in the United States also was a factor. Cavel is the only facility in the country still slaughtering horses for human consumption overseas, and Lovvorn said the HSUS has received numerous complaints about the plant. Cavel has paid escalating fines since 2004 for exceeding the amount of organic material - including blood and other byproducts of slaughter - it is allowed to discharge into the sewer. In February, wastewater from its slaughter operations could be seen overflowing from a holding tank that is part of a pretreatment system at the plant, 108 Harvestore Drive. The foaming overflow had frozen in the cold weather, according to Tucker. The DeKalb Sanitary District told the plant in February it has until May 31 to correct the violations or face being shut down. &#8220If (the plant is not shut down with the discharge problem still unfixed) and the 60 days are up, (the HSUS) will file suit in federal district court,” Lovvorn said. If the discharge problem is resolved prior to the 60-day deadline, Lovvorn said, HSUS representatives will meet with sanitary district and Cavel officials &#8220to make sure it's really taken care of.” &#8220The notice is about the environmental problem on the ground at Cavel, and we want to get that resolved one way or another,” he said. Dana Herra can be reached at

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