The Kiryas Joel Poultry Processing Plant, shown Friday
A Kiryas Joel slaughterhouse that supplies kosher chicken to Orthodox Jewish markets in New York and New Jersey is waging its second court fight with Orange County over the cost of treating the enormous volume of wastewater the plant discharges each day.
The Kiryas Joel Poultry Processing Plant has sued in state Supreme Court to challenge a $380,000 annual surcharge the county imposed in May — in addition to $211,000 in regular sewer charges and late fees — because of the added burden of processing "high strength" wastewater in a nearby county-run treatment facility.
Attorneys for the slaughterhouse and affiliated Kiryas Joel Meat Market argue the surcharge is invalid because the county agreed last year not to impose one until the plant's owners had finished upgrading the equipment used to pretreat its wastewater.
They also claim the county overstated the cost because of improper sampling methods.
The slaughterhouse, which opened in 2004, now employs 300 people and "serves a significant part of the kosher chicken market in the greater New York and New Jersey area," according to the court papers filed in Goshen by Manhattan attorney Edward Scarvalone.
A chronic problem is disposing of the tide of water used to clean and cool chicken carcasses.
Village officials recently reported that the plant uses or will soon use 275,000 gallons a day — roughly as much water as Greenwood Lake's 3,400 residents use.
That's up from two years ago, when the county claimed the slaughterhouse drew as much as 225,000 daily gallons.
That wastewater is partially cleaned with pretreatment equipment and then piped into the sewer plant that Kiryas Joel owns and Orange County runs.
The legal disputes began in 2008, when the county imposed a surcharge of more than $235,000, saying the pretreatment was inadequate.
According to the latest court papers, the two sides reached a settlement in August 2010 in which the slaughterhouse owners agreed to improve its equipment and pay nearly $400,000 in regular charges it owed.
The county, in turn, promised to suspend the surcharge and possibly waive it once the improvements were done.
The complaint says the slaughterhouse had already spent $606,000 on upgrades before the settlement and has now spent an additional $900,000 — a total of $1.5 million.
When the case was settled, work was expected to be done by May 2011, but it was still in progress when the second lawsuit was filed on Sept. 23.
Included in the court papers is a May 23 sewer bill from Orange County, demanding a $380,000 surcharge in addition to regular charges for April 2010 to April 2011.
The bill — sent by Peter Hammond, a deputy Public Works commissioner — also claims the slaughterhouse owes more than $880,000 in surcharges for October 2007 to April 2010.
Hammond said that earlier debt was "being held in abeyance" until the business complied with last year's court settlement.