JBS Swift plant in Butchertown

Story updated at 10:30 a.m.

Just a few days after the plant was cited for multiple pollution violations, the Louisville Metro Board of Zoning Adjustment members voted unanimously to grant JBS Swift a conditional use permit to make multiple changes — changes opposed by the Butchertown Neighborhood Association.

The decision comes five years after the plant, which processes about 10,000 pigs per day into pork products, applied for the zoning changes.

Those changes include covering the unloading chutes where hogs exit trucks as they move to slaughter. The company began the process to enclose the chutes in 2009, but BOZA halted the work after the contractor hired to perform the work did not apply for permits.

Swift has now been cleared to add a fourth unloading chute, then enclose all the chutes as well as enclose the end of the unloading barn.

The Butchertown Neighborhood Association had strongly opposed the changes, while company executives argued enclosing the chutes would reduce smells emanating from the plant.

The vote also allows Swift to build an open-air break area, put up new fencing around the plant perimeter, and build a 160-square-foot area meant to increase work safety for employees who stun the pigs.

Last Thursday, Louisville Metro Government announced it was fining Swift $98,000 for violations, including repeated emissions and odors violations and failing to keep pollution monitoring records. The Air Pollution Control board issued a notice of violation against Swift with allegations dating back 18 months; APCD officials could let Swift settle the complaints for as little as $74,000.

Swift has 30 days to prepare a response and could, theoretically, end up not paying any fees.

The plant is a flashpoint for residents in the Butchertown area, who have tried to get Swift, based in Greely, Colo., to move the plant or close it down.

Swift officials counter demand for pork products is at a historic high, and the plant makes a significant economic injection to the city’s economy.

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Here are statistics provided by the company:

Payroll and benefits: $59 million for 1,245 employees

Tax revenue (non-payroll): $480,000

Average pay and benefits for hourly employees: $45,680 annually.

Swift purchases about $418 million worth of hogs in the three-state area of Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois.

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Terry Boyd
Terry Boyd has seven years experience as a business/finance journalist, and eight years a military reporter with European Stars and Stripes. As a banking and finance reporter at Business First, Boyd dealt directly with the most influential executives and financiers in Louisville.

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