'Appalling': EPA forcing changes on York County food processor over water pollution

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking legal action against a York County food processor after it allegedly violated numerous state and federal water regulations.

Hanover Foods Corp. will be forced to address violations including excessive levels of contaminants, floating solids and scum discharged into Oil Creek.

Oil Creek, a tributary of the Codorus Creek in York County, flows into the Susquehanna River and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.

“The number of alleged violations observed during inspections is appalling,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic regional administrator Adam Ortiz. “The company needs to identify why this occurred and present a plan to fix this so that the local waters that eventually feed into the Chesapeake Bay are protected.”

Hanover Foods' Factory Outlet Store in Hanover Tuesday, July 6, 2021.

Under a consent order with the EPA, Hanover Foods will be required to conduct studies determining the cause and how to correct the alleged water pollution violations, according to a news release provided by the EPA.

For more than a year, local environmental groups rallied against Hanover Foods with lawsuits of their own. 

The Environmental Integrity Project, on behalf of the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, filed a lawsuit last September after the food processor ignored previous letters seeking to address the alleged issues.

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On Wednesday, the Environmental Integrity Project applauded the EPA's actions.

"We will review Hanover’s analysis to determine whether their proposed plan will address the serious Clean Water Act violations we identified in our lawsuit," said Jen Duggan, deputy director of the Environmental Integrity Project. "Our end goal remains the same: to stop the pollution and protect water quality in Oil Creek, downstream Codorus Creek and the Susquehanna River.”  

Hanover Foods, which has a food processing facility at 1550 York St. in Penn Township, did not respond to requests for comment.

Hanover Foods' Factory Outlet Store in Hanover Tuesday, July 6, 2021. Bill Kalina photo

Ted Evgeniadis, the executive director of the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, said last July that it wasn't the first time Hanover Foods had violated state Department of Environmental Protection rules.

In 2017, the food company entered into a consent order agreement with the state DEP after the agency determined Hanover Foods began construction of a new wastewater facility without permit authorization, according to the letter of intent submitted on June 29. The DEP fined the company $6,200.

Hanover Foods also was subject to a 2013 consent order agreement with a civil penalty of $20,000, according to documents provided by the state DEP.

The company also paid $1,600 to fully resolve fecal coliform effluent violations from May 1, 2016, through Sept. 30, 2016, according to the letter of intent to sue sent last July.

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“It's my duty to report violations to the state, and if the state doesn’t do anything about it, then I step in and I do something about it," Evgeniadis said in July. 

Currently, Hanover Foods is under an administrative order on consent and will be required to provide the EPA with an engineering evaluation, in addition to proposing and implementing a corrective action and maintenance plan.

"This work is a first step in addressing the company’s discharge of pollutants into the Chesapeake Bay watershed," the EPA said in a news release. 

The U.S. EPA is working with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection during the development of this action.

The Pennsylvania DEP declined to comment Wednesday, citing pending litigation.

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.