City takes new steps to close Dallas slaughterhouse

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on March 28, 2012 at 6:02 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 28 at 6:51 PM

Columbia Packing Company

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DALLAS — The City of Dallas has added another weapon to its arsenal in what looks to be an all-out effort to shut down the Columbia Packing Company, the plant accused of leaking pigs' blood into a creek that runs into the Trinity River.

Right now, the slaughterhouse is closed, but it could continue packaging meat if it complies with city demands. But complying with those demands may prove to be difficult.

On January 19, Dallas city officials made public the stomach-turning photos of a river of blood flowing out of the Columbia Packing Company and into a creek that feeds the Trinity River.

Since that time, city officials have ordered operations halted until all concerns have been addressed at the slaughterhouse and meat packing plant.

City Council member Dwaine Caraway's wife, Barbara Mallory-Caraway, runs her congressional campaign from a building across the street from the slaughterhouse.

"It is Columbia's responsibility to respond effectively and efficiently and very quickly to the City's concerns," Dwaine Caraway said. "The plant will fall into the category of non-operational until those concerns are addressed."

Columbia officials say the release of blood was an accident caused by a clogged drain and that the problem has been remedied.

Not so say city officials, who believe the slaughterhouse has been operating outside of proper zoning ordinances since the mid-1960s.

Dallas City Attorney Tom Perkins wants to have the plant permanently closed, and will apparently make gaining a new certificate of occupancy difficult.

"They've got to go through the Certificate of Occupancy process, and we will see how that turns out," Perkins said.

Columbia Packing officials are furious. Their outrage was articulated in a letter to Dallas city officials on February 24.

"It appears that the City is 'hiding the ball' in an effort to delay Columbia's ability to comply with the City's demands," company attorney Amy Rickers said. "The City is raising new, unsubstantiated, issues at every turn."

On Wednesday, in a unanimous vote, Dallas City Council members passed a resolution authorizing the City Attorney to file suit against Columbia under the Texas Water Code’s provisions which protect Texas waterways.

News 8 has also learned of an ongoing criminal investigation which could make reopening the plant difficult.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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