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Decision on Cavel fines continued

Published: Wednesday, May 30, 2007 12:00 a.m. CDT

DeKALB - Cavel International learned at Tuesday's DeKalb Sanitary Board meeting that it will have to wait three weeks to see if its fines for violating its wastewater discharge permit will be lowered. The horse-slaughtering plant, which is not operating now, appealed two sets of fines levied by the DeKalb Sanitary District for several violations of its discharge permit, which was granted by the district. Fines are $25,500 for violations last year through September, and $55,000 for violations from October through March, sanitary district attorney Keith Foster said. But Cavel's attorney, Ohio-based Vincent Atriano, said the fines aren't fair because the plant was attempting to get in compliance when the fines were levied. He said that since 2004, the plant has spent more than $500,000 to get its equipment to be in compliance. The slaughter plant was shut down after a suspicious 2002 fire destroyed it. When it reopened in 2004, its wastewater system failed to comply, Cavel Manager Jim Tucker said. Several attempts to get the wastewater system repaired were made, until the plant decided to build a new one, Atriano said. Final plans were put into place in September 2006, he said. Cavel said the plant would be in compliance with its wastewater permit by the end of March, and the sanitary district began to test the wastewater at the plant on a daily basis in March when the plant incurred the maximum fine at $1,000 per violation. But DeKalb Sanitary Board President Dennis Collins said the district wasn't accepting the plant's excuse that it was working hard to get into compliance. &#8220(Cavel) didn't really get serious until the fines got serious,” he said, noting that the problems at the plant did not get reported in the news until the fines increased. He questioned why the plant would spend $27,000 to haul wastewater away if it was in compliance and asked why it wasn't hooked up to the wastewater plant. Atriano said Cavel made the decision to haul away wastewater when it saw that it would not be in compliance by the March 31 deadline. The district fines are just one of the problems the only remaining U.S. horse-slaughtering plant is facing. The plant was closed last week after Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a ban on slaughtering horses for human consumption. Cavel on Friday filed a suit in federal court asking that the law be nullified. The plant wants a temporary restraining order to allow it to continue operating while a decision is made. It was the second time Cavel was closed this year. It closed at 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 inspection in horse-slaughtering plants. The plant reopened on May 7 while the decision was on appeal. The board will make its decision on the fines at 5 p.m. June 19 at the DeKalb Sanitary District office, 303 Hollister Ave. Aracely Hernandez can be reached at ahernandez@daily-chronicle.com.

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