APCD fines Butchertown’s JBS Swift plant nearly $100,000 for air quality violations

jbs swift

As we wrote about last month, many residents in Butchertown are fed up not just with the odors coming from the JBS Swift plant that slaughters up to 10,000 hogs per day in the burgeoning neighborhood, but the inability of Metro Government to do anything about it.

However, last week the Metro Air Pollution Control District sent a notice of violation letter to JBS Swift for a long list of air quality violations dating from 2009 to December of last year, fining them $98,750. The NOV is below:


The NOV lists over 40 incidents where residents called APCD to complain about objectionable odors coming from the plant, which were confirmed by APCD employees. The NOV also claims that JBS Swift was late on permiting, failed to report particulate and greenhouse gas emissions, failed to monitor its odor control equipment, and failed to keep monitoring records.

In APCD’s letter, JBS Swift was informed that they could settle the matter for $74,050 if they submitted a plan to control livestock odor in the future by March 28. APCD held out the possibility of fining JBS $10,000 for each day that the plant continued to be in violation.

A press release sent out by the Butchertown Neighborhood Association — who has battled the JBS over the plant’s odors and permits for years — ripped JBS over their continued violations and inability to control odors:

“The alleged violations come as no surprise to anyone who lives or works in any neighborhoods surrounding the JBS/Swift slaughterhouse,” said Butchertown Neighborhood Association President, Andy Cornelius.  “JBS/Swift should be held accountable for refusing to follow the law and required to take all steps necessary to keep its animal slaughtering odors out of our homes, businesses and schools.”

The District’s Notice of Violation Letter comes on the heels of a special Courier-Journal report on chemical “Danger Zones” in Louisville.  That article noted that JBS/Swift has previously run afoul of District regulations related to its risk management plan for catastrophic chemical releases.  The report went on to note that in 2011, just days after paying a fine to the District, JBS/Swift was responsible for an anhydrous ammonia leak that forced workers to evacuate and local residents to shelter in place. 

“JBS/Swift’s refusal to play by the rules doesn’t just affect Butchertown.” said Bill Marzian, a NuLu property owner.  “The smell of the plant comes right down East Market Street and into our businesses.  It should be pretty obvious to anyone that the smell of a slaughterhouse doesn’t encourage foot traffic.  As a property owner, I know that if I don’t follow the law, I’m at risk of being shut down by the appropriate authorities.  It’s only fair that JBS/Swift should have to control its awful smells or face the same consequences.” 

We’ll reach out to JBS Swift and update with their comments on the NOV.


  1. Jim Lahey
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    Assessing fines based on incidents in 2009 is somewhat suspicious. If these were real incident reports back in 2009, fines should have been levied at that time. Bundling 5 years worth of fines together into one big package smells like incompetence on the part of the APCD (or malice, but no need to assume that). Of course, if the fines stemming from 2009 have been levied and are simply outstanding debts, then I retract the above criticisms.

    The point is, fines should be posted and levied promptly. This is just a general principle that happens to be applicable here.

    My take on the JBS issue (and I live in Butchertown and can often smell the smells) is that all affected parties should come to some sort of Coase-type (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coase_theorem) bargaining agreement that doesn’t seek to leverage regulations and influence bureaucrats to get their way. A possible example might be that nearby residents would pay JBS to install air quality controls, or pay them to move somewhere else. Such a solution would assume that both sides of the disagreement are capable of evaluating costs and benefits rationally, which is a shaky assumption at best.

  2. Robert A, Bell
    Posted July 7, 2014 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    I have read with interest about problems with JBS. WE have a plant in our community which Appears to be taking unfair advantage of pollution laws in emitting bad odors in a secretive manner……night incineration of waste! I have complained twice to DEQ but don’t seem to be taken seriously This is a serious problem and I need help in getting someone to investigate and take action. If anyone can suggest what to do, I would like to hear from them. Thanks. R. Bell, Plainwell. Michigan 49080