Meatpacker IBP, inc. has reached an agreement with federal and state officials that the company said would ensure continued protection of the environment at several company plant locations.

The agreement settles a January 2000 lawsuit filed against the company by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As part of the settlement, IBP agreed to pay $2.25 million to EPA and $1.85 million to the state of Nebraska, and will install additional improvements at one of its wastewater treatment plants. In return, EPA has dropped its lawsuit against the company, as well as its claims of environmental violations by the company.

The settlement resolves government claims about air and water quality, waste management and release reporting at IBP's Dakota City, Neb., plant, as well as water quality issues at former IBP facilities in Gibbon, Neb., and Palestine, Texas. Improvements were completed at the Gibbon and Palestine facilities before the company settled with EPA.

According to IBP officials, the settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing by the company. "While we still don't agree with the nature and extent of the claims made in the lawsuit, we're glad that we were able to come to an agreement that allows us to put the matter behind us," said William Tolle, IBP assistant vice president of environmental affairs.

Tolle noted that certain government concerns were already being addressed by IBP when the lawsuit was filed. The company, for example, announced plans in 1997 to construct covered lagoons at the Dakota City, plant in order to reduce biogas odors. The project has since been completed and is operating successfully, according to the company.

As part of the settlement agreement, IBP will voluntarily install a full nitrification system at the Dakota City facility to reduce ammonia levels more efficiently during wastewater treatment.

In a separate administrative consent agreement, IBP also resolved certain EPA claims regarding IBP's Joslin, Ill., facility. As part of that settlement, IBP will pay an additional $200,000 to EPA. IBP had already voluntarily made extensive environmental improvements at Joslin, including new covered lagoons at the wastewater treatment plant and enhanced controls to capture and destroy collected gases.

Including Joslin, IBP has installed lagoon covers and controls at five plant locations since the early 1990s.