YORK COUNTY, Pa. — A York County food processor is under scrutiny by state and federal environmental agencies. Hanover Foods Corporation is accused of discharging unsafe levels of pollutants from its wastewater treatment facility in Hanover, York County.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued an Administrative Order on Consent against the company to identify a cause and fix the problem.
Records indicate that the company may have been aware of the alleged violations. FOX43 Reveals how it was reportedly polluting local waterways for years.
Oil Creek in York County is a water source for livestock, occasionally used for irrigation by nearby farmers and runs through several communities. However, the waterway may have been quietly polluted hundreds of times over the years. Hanover Foods Corporation is accused of dumping wastewater that was not properly treated into the creek.
“It’s affecting water quality in Oil Creek, downstream Codorus Creek and ultimately the Susquehanna River,” said Ted Evgeniadis, executive director of the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association.
Evgeniadis noticed pollution from an outfall into the creek and filed a lawsuit against the company to address the problem. The Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association is represented by the Environmental Integrity Project and the lawsuit contains hundreds of pages of documents outlining potential water pollution violations.
“I was in the creek. You can see algae and scum on the rocks. You can see suspended solids. I actually saw a rainbow trout that seemed to have some discoloration going on so there was presence of pollution there at the site,” Evgeniadis said.
FOX43 Reveals that between May 2016 and June 2021, Hanover Foods discharged unsafe levels of contaminants into the creek—at times 1,456% higher than what the company's permit allows. Records show the company’s wastewater treatment facility discharged high levels of ammonia-nitrogen, total suspended solids and fecal coliform. Evgeniadis said water quality in Oil Creek is degrading downstream.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking legal action to require Hanover Foods to conduct a study to determine the cause and identify ways to correct these alleged water pollution violations.
“The number of alleged violations observed during inspections is appalling,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz. “The company needs to identify why this occurred and present a plan to fix this so that the local waters that eventually feed into the Chesapeake Bay are protected.”
During inspections at the wastewater treatment facility, the agency noted a digester—which breaks down food waste—had been “operating under less-than optimal conditions.” EPA inspectors also noted several warning lights that would have alerted the company to potentially failing UV lamps.
FOX43 Reveals made repeated calls to Hanover Foods. None of our messages were returned.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has brought several enforcement actions over the years against Hanover Foods for similar violations. The company has until April 5 to submit an engineering evaluation to the EPA and present a corrective action plan to address the issue.
The Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association and Hanover Foods filed a joint motion to stay the litigation pending the release of the corrective action plan.
“There is in fact a lot of pollution coming out of this plant and we’re going to make sure that they are held accountable to fix it,” Evgeniaidis asserted.
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