Colorado River Basin Regional Water Quality Control Board issues draft proposal to help National Beef remain open

February 19, 2014

The Colorado River Basin Regional Water Quality Control Board issued a draft proposal that directs National Beef Packing Co. to either properly close some of its wastewater facilities or send a proposal that would show how it plans to comply with state regulations.

County Supervisor Ryan Kelley said the capital improvements and other upgrades required by the water control board add up to about $14 million. With an extra six months to get in compliance with the Clean Water Act, National Beef has the opportunity to focus on some of the other issues that may force it to shut down the beef plant in Brawley, such as cattle supply and utility costs, he added.

“It’s basically putting one issue on the back burner so we can focus on the other two,” said Kelley, a member of the ad hoc committee that was formed to address the National Beef closure.

The water control board received a letter from Sen. Ben Hueso asking for assistance because National Beef “has identified the wastewater pretreatment capital improvements schedule required by the water board as one of the main reasons why they need to close their business.”

Hueso continues in his letter, “While I believe these capital improvements are necessary and important, I urge you to look at the schedule and delay enforcement for six months in order to give all stakeholders the time to come up with a solution to effectively address the issues, while continuing to improve water quality.”

The draft proposal will be an agenda item up for discussion in March when the regional Water Quality Control Board meets in Brawley and accommodates the time for the city of Brawley, Imperial County, Imperial Irrigation District and cattlemen to persuade National Beef to remain open, said Jose Angel, assistant executive officer and ombudsperson for the Colorado River Basin Regional Water Quality Control Board.

“This is not a moratorium … It is just a proposed cleanup abatement order that provides a time schedule,” Angel said. “It takes time anyway to implement (policies and regulations) and it takes time to properly close the facilities.”

National Beef is already aware of the proposal, Kelley said, and ad hoc committee members will meet with National Beef representatives again today via a conference call.

“We hope to have some conclusion to the conversation (today),” Kelley said. “Either National Beef will agree and set a date and time to negotiate (in person) or that they reviewed the proposal and found they cannot do business … at the Brawley plant.”

Staff Writer Krista Daly can be reached at 760-337-3445 or kdaly@ivpressonline.com.