Updated with company statement 1/23/2012 @5:30 p.m.
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Federal, state, and local authorities say a Dallas meat-packing company is under criminal investigation for possibly illegally dumping pig blood into a creek that leads to the Trinity River.
Investigators executed search warrants Thursday at the Columbia Packing Company on East 11th Street in Oak Cliff.
The Texas Environmental Crimes Task Force has been looking into the plant for two months now. Dallas County has been working with federal and state investigators ever since the tip came in.
The task force is now investigating whether the pig blood came from a secondary pipe not connected with the waste water system.
Dallas County health officials say photos investigators took show blood appearing to flow from the Columbia Packing Company into Cedar Creek and then into the Trinity River.
Health and Human Services chief Zach Thompson says that's what has county, federal, and state investigators so concerned. "Any time there is some type of discharge into the Trinity River... especially from an environmental standpoint, this is a real concern."
Thompson says the EPA, TCEQ, and Texas Parks and Wildlife executed a search warrant on the plant Thursday, and found a pipe not connected to a waste water system. "I think they discovered a secondary pipe again is my understanding, so the question is who installed the pipe and why was it there."
At the plant this afternoon, a guard wouldn't allow reporters inside and said there was no comment.
The health department says the investigation began in late November when a man taking scenic photos of the Trinity saw what appeared to blood, and called authorities.
According to a letter by the Animal Welfare Institute posted on the USDA's website, the plant was cited in 2008 and 2009 for inhumane treatment or slaughter of animals. The letter also says the company received a one day suspension each time.
UPDATE: On Jan. 23, Columbia Packing Company issued this statement:
Columbia Packing Co., Inc is a family owned business with a strong compliance history in a very regulated industry. It has been operating for nearly 100 years and is a pillar in the community participating in numerous area events and supporting area charities. It has approximately 100 employees at its plant.
Columbia has never and would never intentionally engage in the activities recently alleged in the media. It was surprised by the allegations raised last week and was previously unaware of any such concerns. When notified of the potential issues, it fully cooperated with the government officials to answer any questions and to take any necessary action. Columbia ceased operation pending approval from the governmental agencies to resume its normal operation.
Columbia appreciates the support of its customers and the community during this time and looks forward to continued operation and participation in the community.
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