The New Mexico Environment Department has set a public hearing at the 5th Judicial District Courthouse next month on Valley Meat Co.’s water discharge permit.
The department denied issuing the horse slaughter processing plant a temporary permit in July.
The hearing was required after the department’s Water Quality Bureau received more than 450 public comments concerning Valley Meat’s application, according to NMED. Of the 450 public responses, less than 12 were received from New Mexicans, according to Kevin Powers of NMED’s Office of General Counsel.
But because of the substantial public interest in the company’s permit, a public meeting was required, Powers said in July.
The company’s permit last expired in 2009. As Valley Meat waited 15 months for USDA to process its horse meat inspection permit, the state permitting process was also delayed by NMED, according to Valley Meat’s attorney A. Blair Dunn.
Dunn has requested the department issue a 120-day temporary discharge permit to resolve the issue due to the time delay.
The denial of Valley Meat’s discharge permit will not hinder the plant from opening, should U.S. District Court Judge Christina Armijo rule in favor of allowing horse slaughter inspections to begin at the end of October. Owner Rick De Los Santos plans to truck wastewater off the property until the permitting process is resolved.
A hearing is set to decide the issue at that time. Last month, Armijo issued a restraining order blocking the plant and an Iowa company from opening. Animal rights activists sued the federal government to stop the practice.
Armijo could decide, at the next hearing, to agree with her original decision, send the matter through an appeal process or overturn her decision.
De Los Santos proposes to renew the plant’s discharge permit, calling to discharge up to 8,000 gallons per day of livestock processing wastewater from the slaughter facility. The wastewater will flow into the first of two synthetically lined ponds for disposal by evaporation.
NMED has scheduled an official hearing with Hearing Clerk Sally Worthington. The hearing will start at 9 a.m., Oct. 22, at the courthouse, 400 N. Virginia St.
Public comment will be taken as specified by the hearing officer starting at 5 p.m.
The hearing may continue on the following day.
In lieu of oral public comments, NMED will accept written statements, submitted to the Hearing Clerk for the record during or prior to the hearing. Written statements should be mailed to NMED Hearing Clerk Sally Worthington, Room S-2103, 1190 St. Francis Drive, Santa Fe, NM 97502. Call 505-827-2002 for information.
No decision will be made at the end of the hearing. A post-hearing process will be completed at the end of an evidentiary record period. Following that, the department secretary will either approve, conditionally approve or disapprove the permit.