PLEASANT HOPE, Mo. — A public hearing between the Department of Natural Resources and those concerned for the Pomme de Terre River is being scheduled after multiple questions were raised about a slaughterhouse potentially polluting the river.

Pleasant Hope residents want answers about Missouri Prime Beef Packers’ proposal to dump 350,000 gallons of treated wastewater into local waterways each day.

“There’s a correct way to treat your waste,” said John Bledsoe, a member of the Missouri Stream Team. “I think that dumping it in the river is a shortcut.”

Missouri Prime Beef Packers is hoping to use a new technology called iLeaf to treat the waste before disposing of it in the Pomme de Terre River.

“When we talk about significant degradation, that was a word that was questioned a lot,” said Water Pollution Control Branch Chief Heather Peters with DNR. “All we’re saying is that it’s not insignificant.”

Insignificant degradation is discharge that wouldn’t cause any harm to water whatsoever.

“I will tell you, that is something we rarely ever say,” Peters said. “Almost always we, we look at it as a potential impact or something that can degrade our water. But that doesn’t mean that they can degrade the waters in a way that is going to impact any of the uses that we’re required to protect.”

Bledsoe created a Facebook group called Pomme de Terre Water Watch Dogs to raise awareness for the beef plant’s plans.

“The end goal of this is not to shut down the beef plant,” Bledsoe said. “It’s not to put people out of work. It’s simply to ask them to do their part in making sure that they’re not being a detriment to the community.”

Before the slaughterhouse can move forward with its plans, it needs approval from the DNR. Peters tells OzarksFirst they are listening to community members and have some of the same concerns.

“We agree that we don’t think there’s enough documentation yet to approve the iLeaf technology for use at this facility,” Peters said. “This is a new and innovative technology. And of course, we allow that. But there are some caveats to that and they have to prove that it can work. And we don’t have that documentation yet.”

DNR acknowledges that if Missouri Prime Beef Packers dumps treated wastewater into the river it will cause an impact. However, the impact could be small enough to meet DNR’s standards.

“If [iLeaf] does what it’s designed to do, it manages to treat and remove a significant number of pollutants so it can actually treat and remove or filter out bacteria, which is something that a lot of our treatment technologies can’t do,” Peters said.

Bledsoe tells OzarksFirst he is concerned about the precedent that could be set if DNR signs off on these plans.

“Allowing a slaughterhouse in southwest Missouri, where we pride ourselves on our, our streams and rivers and lakes, to allow us to allow a slaughterhouse to discharge into one of those streams or rivers, is it’s asinine, in my opinion,” Bledsoe said

The beef plant currently dumps its waste onto a field, but the state will soon make it change that approach. 

“This is a high-strength waste,” Peters said. “It’s got more pollutants in it than a city’s wastewater does. And so for us, testing out equipment to make sure that it can bring it down from that higher pollutant load down to where we need to be is the piece that we really don’t have that data on. And they’re required to have data to provide that to us.”

“We need to make sure that we’re preserving those natural resources or they’re not going to be there for future generations,” Bledsoe said.

OzarksFirst did reach out to Missouri Prime Beef Packers for comment but did not receive a response.

The slaughterhouse will be required to attend the public hearing on the issue, but that hearing has not yet been scheduled.