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Cavel is operating again

Published: Wednesday, May 9, 2007 12:00 a.m. CDT
New concrete railroad ties lay under the north set of tracks west of Sixth Street in DeKalb as construction continues Wednesday afternoon. Chronicle photo HOLLY LUNDH

DeKALB - Operations resumed Monday at the only plant in the country still legally allowed to slaughter horses for human consumption. Cavel International Manager Jim Tucker confirmed Wednesday morning that the plant is running again. Cavel had shut down near the end of March following a federal court ruling that called into question the legality of the pay-for-service system set up by the federal government for meat inspections in horse-slaughtering plants. But the plant was cleared to reopen last week while that decision is on appeal. Tucker said U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors are on-site. &#8220The inspectors were back in the plant on Monday,” said Steven Cohen, a spokesman with the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. &#8220We are obligated to provide inspection services at these facilities if they are operating.”Tucker would not comment on when the plant resumed slaughtering, nor would he say how the waste from the plant is being treated or if it is being shipped out of town. According to the DeKalb Sanitary District, the plant has disconnected from the district's system after racking up a series of wastewater violations over the last two years. Dennis Collins, president of the DeKalb Sanitary District's board of trustees, said Wednesday he was not aware that Cavel had reopened. &#8220I knew there was the potential on the drawing board for them to reopen, but I did not know they had resumed slaughtering animals,” he said. Collins said he also did not know if Cavel had paid its fines to the sanitary district or where it is taking its wastewater to be treated. He referred those questions to district Director Mike Zima, who was not available for comment. Last week, Zima said he had asked Tucker to give him 48 hours' notice before the plant reopened. Since reopening in 2004, the plant has acquired more than $31,000 in fines for repeated wastewater violations. In February, Cavel told the sanitary district that the plant would be in compliance by the end of March. At the end of March the plant was not in compliance because of high ammonia discharge in its water, Zima said. He said the plant would face additional fines. The plant employs around 50 people and slaughters about 1,000 horses a week. Two Texas plants' operations were stopped in January after a federal appeals court upheld a 1949 Texas ban on the slaughter of horses for human consumption.

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