BREAKING: Residents, organizations file suit against Tyson over spill, plant conditions

The June 6 Tyson spill resulted in a massive fish kill. (Photo courtesy of Black Warrior Riverkeeper)

JASPER, Ala. – On Friday, the Sipsey Heritage Commission and Chandler Holdings, along with 40 individual property owners along the Mulberry and Sipsey Forks of the Black Warrior River, filed suit against Tyson Farms, Inc., River Valley Ingredients LLC, RVI Hanceville plant manager Jason Spann, American Proteins, Inc. and Hydraservice, Inc.

The lawsuit stems from the Thursday, June 6, 2019 incident in which approximately 220,000 gallons of effluent (liquid waste or sewage) were spilled by the Tyson Foods, Inc./River Valley Ingredients plant (formerly American Proteins) in Hanceville into the Dave Young Creek, which flows to the Mulberry Fork. The spill led to a “massive fish kill” and a warning against recreational use of the Mulberry Fork. It was the plant’s fourth environmental incident affecting the Mulberry Fork since 2011.

Hydraservice, Inc. is the contractor that installed the pump and equipment from which the June 6 spill occurred.  The complaint also left open the possibility of more defendants being named at a later date.

The complaint, filed in Walker County by attorneys Edward Jackson and Judson Allen, makes charges of:

  • Negligence – The complaint alleged that the defendant had a duty to exercise reasonable care in the operation of the plant and all equipment there, and failed to do so.
  • Nuisance – The complaint alleged that the June 6 and previous spills, along with the foul odor that regularly comes from the plant has interfered with the ability of river residents to use and enjoy their property, has lowered property values and caused the residents undue stress.
  • Wanton Conduct – The complaint alleged that the defendants were aware of ongoing issues like the smell, and of the dangers of spills, and deliberately continued to run the plant in a manner likely to result in such problems.

The plaintiffs are seeking injunctive relief to restrain the plaintiffs from such actions in the future, for remediation of the river, and “such other relief as the Plaintiffs might be due.” 

This is a developing story.

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W.C. Mann