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Fish Producer Accused Of Polluting Chesapeake Bay

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By Matt McCleskey

Environmental regulators are looking into allegations that the nation's top menhaden processor has been dumping oxygen-choking fish waste into the Chesapeake Bay.

The accusations stem from a lawsuit filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center against the Omega Protein Corporation. Omega is based in Texas, but the suit accuses the company's plant in Reedville, Virginia of routine discharges comparable to those from a large waste-water treatment plant.

The group says the slurry includes excessive nitrogen and phosphorous that can lead to oxygen-starved "dead zones" in the bay, that can kill blue crabs and other marine life.

A spokesman for Omega denies the claims, telling the Daily Press of Newport News any water used in the processing of menhaden goes through waste-water treatment before it's put back in the bay.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency and Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality say they'll be reviewing the company's water-pollution permits to verify whether it's in compliance.

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