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Louisville Air District Approves $51,000 Fine for JBS Swift

Erica Peterson

The Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control Board has approved a $51,750 fine for pork processor JBS Swift for violations at its plant in Butchertown.

The agreed board ordersettles several permit violations. In a public hearing Wednesday before the board’s regularly scheduled meeting, Swift attorney Dennis Conniff told the board that the company had agreed to the fine.

Besides Conniff, no one spoke during the hearing’s comment period, though the APCD did receive seven written comments. All were from residents living near the Swift plant, and complained about the odors from the facility.

One of the letters was from Scott Howe, the vice president of commercial services at real estate firm Gant Hill, and a homeowner in the area. Howe wrote:

"This odor issue is affecting prime urban real estate areas, as well as the entire city, the state, and the Swift company itself. The smell is undeniable, we all know it, we all smell it, and it is evident from the Highlands, to Broadway, to west of 9th St, and even to Mockingbird Valley and River Rd. Butchertown is certainly not the only affected area.

"If this city intends to grow and progress, or keep up with the cities of Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Nashville, and others… Then we need to do something about the archaic location choice of a meat processing plant in the heart of the most desired location in the city."

Those issues, which for years have been the subject of complaints from neighbors of the plant, remain unresolved. Swift currently has 27 outstanding violations with the air district for odor issues, dating back to 2011.

APCD Executive Director Keith Talley said despite effort from both parties, there was still no agreement on those violations. Now, the matter will go before a hearing officer.

“We worked very hard with [Swift], they worked very hard on their part to reach a settlement on that, but after a long negotiations and discussions we were unable to do so,” Talley said. “So, we were both prepared to go to hearing on that matter to get some final resolution.”

An administrative hearing on air pollution issues is rare. There have only been two in the last decade — both in 2006. In both cases, the hearing officer ruled in favor of the Air Pollution Control District.

Talley said Swift has taken steps to address the problems. The company received its last notice of violation for odor issues last month, and those living near the plant say odors are still an issue. Swift representatives have said in the past they believe the APCD’s process for citing odor violations is subjective.

“[Swift has] always made an effort to try to address those issues, but there are some differences of opinions on basically how we go about those investigations that we couldn’t come to a resolution about,” Talley said.

This story has been updated. A previous version misstated the date of Swift's last NOV for odor violations.

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