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Jennette Gayer,
Environment Georgia

As shareholders mull clean water resolution, new data shows Tyson is one of Georgia’s top water polluters by volume

For Immediate Release

Atlanta, GA –As shareholders of Tyson Foods, Inc. consider a resolution on Friday that would require the food giant to institute a “water stewardship” policy, new data shows the company regularly dumps a higher volume of pollution into waterways than companies like ExxonMobil and Dow Chemical.

The Environment Georgia analysis shows Tyson and its subsidiaries released 104 million pounds of pollution to surface waters from 2010 to 2014, nearly seven times the volume of surface water discharges by Exxon during those years.

“Tyson is dumping a huge volume of pollution into our waterways,” said Jennette Gayer, director of Environment Georgia. “That’s why Tyson’s shareholders should vote to ensure that the company cleans up its act.”

Filed by the American Baptist Home Mission Societies, with four investor co-filers from the Interfaith Center on Corporation Responsibility, the resolution being considered tomorrow at Tyson’s annual meeting in Springdale, Arkansas would require the company to “reduce risks of water contamination” from its thousands of facilities, suppliers, and contractors across the U.S.

“Water is more than a community issue; access to clean, refreshing, life-giving water is a human right,” said Michaele Birdsall, treasurer and deputy executive director, American Baptist Home Mission Societies. “Because we continue to be as committed to the environmental and social performance of the companies in our investment portfolio as we are to their financial performance, we offer a resolution for a vote by all Tyson shareholders that addresses the availability of clean and safe water for all people. Corporate policies that protect water in communities where they operate are fundamental to corporations’ social responsibility to society.” 

The data issued today by Environment Georgia comes from the Toxics Release Inventory, the federal government’s database of self-reported releases of pollutants into the nation’s waterways. In Georgia, 2 Tyson facilities released 959,669 pounds of pollution into local waterways in 2014 alone.

Much of the pollution from Tyson’s facilities is in the form of nitrate compounds, which can contribute to algal blooms and dead zones, and also pose threats to human health, including “blue baby syndrome” for infants.

The Toxics Release Inventory does not include other sources of pollution from Tyson’s supply chain, such as manure from factory farms that raise chickens and other livestock for the company.

Environment Georgia said Tyson Foods and other agribusinesses should reduce their water pollution by taking responsibility for manure from factory farms, requiring comprehensive efforts to minimize fertilizer runoff wherever grain is grown for their livestock, and cutting direct discharges of nitrates and other compounds at processing plants. 

If Tyson fails to adopt tomorrow’s shareholder resolution, Georgia will need its own policies to curb pollution from it and other corporate agribusinesses.

“If we want clean water in our rivers, our bays, and our drinking water sources,” said Gayer, “companies like Tyson will have to dramatically cut pollution from their operations.”