Advocates Criticize South Dakota Ammonia Release Response
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota officials acted prematurely in reporting that human health wasn't at risk from high ammonia releases at a Sioux Falls plant, according to water quality advocates.
Ammonia was released into the Big Sioux River following a wastewater treatment system failure at the Smithfield Foods pork processing plant last week. The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued a statement Friday that there was no risk to humans, though fish could be threatened.
Ammonia is used in industrial processes and can treat water. But high doses in water can cause neurological and liver problems, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Advocates have said the statement was released before the ammonia violations stopped and before the source of the problem was identified, The Argus Leader reported. The statement was also made before ammonia release peaked, advocates said. The plant is permitted to release 102 pounds of ammonia per day, but it released 2,199 pounds Saturday.
Kelli Buscher, an administrator for the state's Surface Water Quality Program, said the state took immediate and appropriate action after Smithfield officials reported the ammonia discharges. The state worked with the plant to reduce discharges and sent inspectors to sample water several times at four different locations near the plant, she said.
Smithfield officials also said there was no risk to human health or wildlife.
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