Cumberland Times-News

July 31, 2013

State regulators, wastewater disposal company reach deal on discharge

Mexico Farms, LLC will build new treatment facilities

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — A long battle between state environmental regulators and a local wastewater disposal company has been worked out, said Casper Taylor Jr., whose firm represents Mexico Farms, LLC.

Mexico Farms will shell out a significant amount of money as part of the agreement, to install new wastewater treatment facilties that will meet the demands of regulators. The cost of those facilities will total as much as $9.5 million, Taylor said.

“All those good jobs are going to be saved,” Taylor said Wednesday.

Lawyers in the same firm, Alexander & Cleaver, helped negotiate the deal between the company and state regulators. The consent decree will be filed in Allegany County Circuit Court, where state regulators recently filed for an injunction against the company.

“In the interests of avoiding further litigation of this matter, the parties have reached agreement as to terms of settlement,” the decree reads.

Mexico Farms and an associated company have a major economic impact on the area, Taylor said.

Mexico Farms processes wastewater for Fibred, a soybean processing and manufacturing operation. Fibred was not targeted in the Maryland Department of the Environment actions against Mexico Farms.  

Without any way to dispose of wastewater, Fibred might have been faced with shutting down operations. Fibred is mentioned in the consent decree and required to limit the amount of water it discharges annually to Mexico Farms until the new treatment plant is in operation.

 The two companies employ about 35 people, with a payroll of more than $1.7 million. The company also covers employees’ health insurance deductibles and pays about 70 percent of health insurance costs. The Fibred company has sales in the United States of more than $7 million annually, Taylor said.

The dispute centered around allegations that Mexico Farms was dumping wastewater without a permit and continuing a series of environmental violations. The state had filed in Allegany County Circuit Court on July 19 for an injunction and fines in the amount of $500,000.

Last year, an Allegany County Circuit Court judge upheld enforcement actions by the state against the local wastewater processing company but tossed out a $50,000 fine by an administrative law judge for pollution law violations.

The new treatment plant is to be operational by March 30, 2015, according to the agreement. The lagoons will cease operations and be cleaned out during 2014-15, according to the language of the decree. Mexico Farms agreed to provide monthly progress reports to MDE.

Fibred was founded by the late Lewis J. Ort, who transformed a family bakery into a nationwide operation. Ort knew dietary fiber could improve health and began the Fibred Co. as a way to provide food-grade fiber.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.