Hidden pipe discovered at Dallas slaughterhouse

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on March 7, 2012 at 8:39 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 7 at 8:50 PM

DALLAS — The Dallas slaughterhouse under investigation for discharging pigs' blood into a creek that flowed into the Trinity River had a second, hidden pipe on its property.

As that information surfaced Wednesday, the city took action that could permanently close the plant.

The Columbia Packing plant in East Oak Cliff has been out compliance with its zoning for a long time. On Wednesday, the Dallas City Council voted for the Board of Adjustment to start proceedings that will likely lead to this slaughterhouse and meatpacking business to close.

Even if it does, the company's problems won't end.

According to a letter from the city attorney's office to Columbia obtained by WFAA, the city wants answers about a hidden pipe discovered that could represent a possible criminal violation.

City, state and federal investigators with a search warrant went through Columbia Packing in January looking for evidence of illegal dumping of pigs' blood into Cedar Creek from an existing drain pipe. The city attorney's letter said a city inspector later returned on Friday, February 17 and found a second hidden pipe.

"There was an underground pipe that had been abandoned. It was not connected on either side to any waterway conveyance," said Columbia attorney Amy Rickers. "It was compacted at multiple points with dirt and bricks, so it did not convey any water."

Highly skeptical about what that second pipe had been used for, the inspector asked Columbia not to dig up the pipe without city representatives present.

Yet the city attorney said that when inspectors returned the following Monday, Columbia already excavated the pipe. Rickers gave a very different explanation about why the company dug up the pipe.

"When we did the removal, there was an inspector on site, and we asked if they wanted to stay for that removal and they chose not to," she said.

Regardless, sources tell News 8 investigators are looking at indications the hidden pipe carried waste to circumvent the primary drain pipe, where a pollution monitor was installed.

If true, that could be a criminal violation of pollution laws.

The city attorney's letter also says investigators found bacteria higher than allowed by state law in the water from drain pipes three days after the plant closed following the January raid.

Rickers disputed the accuracy of the sample.

"Certainly there were questions as to how that sample was taken," the lawyer said. "We haven't been able to investigate that thoroughly."

The city is demanding answers from Columbia Packing on the hidden pipe and the alleged pollution.

Rickers said the company is cooperating with the city. She said the discharge of pigs' blood found in the creek was an accident, caused by a plugged sewage line.

The slaughterhouse is owned by the Ondrusek family, which has operated it through the generations since 1913. Family members declined comment as they left City Hall on Wednesday.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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