January 24, 2007
By Diane Strand
The MidWeek, Inc.
Belgian-owned Cavel International, of DeKalb, one of three places in the country where horses have been slaughtered for human consumption by Europeans, has been violating regulations of the DeKalb Sanitary District since the company reopened in 2004. Cavel has been fined a total of $25,500, and there have been 17 violations in the last three months.
Cavel's DeKalb plant burned down in 2002, and the cause of the fire was never determined. The company restarted in June 2004.
The Cavel violations did not compromise or put the sanitary district in violation of Illinois Environmental Protection Agency standards, said Mike Zima, sanitary district manager.
The sanitary district's Board of Trustees discussed the issue last week and decided to wait for completion of a refined system being developed by Cavel which should bring discharges back into compliance.
The board held off levying additional fines at this time. Jim Tucker, manager of the local plant, had spoken with sanitary district officials several months ago because he didn't know if the company would continue in business.
There has been a debate in the Illinois General Assembly and later in Congress over the past five years as to whether the slaughterhouse should be allowed to continue in operation.
Legislation was introduced, first at the state and later at the federal level, sponsored heavily by animal rights groups and other recreational organizations relating to horse ownership.
Opponents have argued that horse slaughter for human food consumption is at odds with American values.
The issue is still pending in Congress, because a new bill was introduced last week.
Asked about the future of the new legislation, Tucker said he was optimistic it would fail. “We feel there will be fewer people supporting the bill and (Cavel's position) has been endorsed by hundreds of organizations including the National Farm Bureau.”
Asked about the local discharge violations, Keith Foster, sanitary district attorney explained, “The situation has been going on since the new plant opened. There are discharge standards set and discharge permits allowed for a number of plants including other industries and the City of DeKalb. They are given special permits to discharge.” When the standards are exceeded, a fine can be levied.
“Cavel has built a sophisticated pretreatment plant at the site,” but it hasn't been able to adequately reduce the discharges to meet district standards, Foster said.
Tucker said the plant is still working on the process and has steadily reduced the level of discharge and hopes to fully comply soon.
Zima said he would hold off on additional fines until the process is complete.
Board Chairman Dennis Collins said, “Why are we holding the ($25,500) check in escrow?”
Foster said the first step is a review process.
Board member Carol Zar commented, “From what I have understood, they have surpassed what they should put in the system, but it hasn't caused the Sanitary District to be out of compliance because of them.” Zima said that was correct.
Collins said, “I don't understand why that money isn't ours. They have repeatedly been warned....I wouldn't give them the impression that they will get the $25,500 back.”