Yuengling brewery has agreed to settle violations of the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday.
In a consent decree filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania brewery - America's oldest - agreed to spend about $7 million to improve environmental measures and pay a $2.8 million penalty.
Federal authorities said D.G. Yuengling and Son Inc., based in Pottsville, Schuylkill County, violated Clean Water Act requirements for companies that discharge industrial waste to municipal publicly owned wastewater-treatment facilities.
In a complaint filed concurrently with the settlement, the government said Yuengling violated pretreatment-permit requirements, including discharge limits for pollutants including "biological oxygen demand," phosphorus, and zinc to the Greater Pottsville Area Sewer Authority treatment plant at least 141 times from 2008 to 2015.
The company has two breweries: an older site at 501 Mahantongo St. and a newer one at 310 Mill Creek Ave., both in Pottsville.
Wendy Yuengling, chief administrative officer for the family business, said in a phone interview that the violations had occurred, but that the company was now in compliance.
She said that the material discharged into the Schuylkill in Pottsville was "not toxic," and that there was "never any harm" to the water source.
A Justice Department spokesman confirmed that the discharged waste was not toxic.
The company has spent more than $8 million on a state-of-the-art wastewater-pretreatment system that has been operating since March at the older brewery, Yuengling said. The newer brewery already had a wastewater-pretreatment system.
She said the discharge was by-products from the brewing process, such as yeast and sugar.
In a statement, the company noted that "in high concentrations, these organic materials can upset the sewer authority's treatment process."
John Cruden, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in a statement that the "settlement requires Yuengling to put into place an environmental-management system designed to manage compliance with the Clean Water Act in a systemic, planned, and documented manner to establish a top-down, prevention-focused approach. The settlement also mandates independent audits of Yuengling's compliance with the consent decree, among other requirements."
Shawn Garvin, administrator for EPA's Mid-Atlantic Region, said: "Yuengling is responsible for serious violations of its Clean Water Act pretreatment discharge limits, posing a potential risk to the Schuylkill River, which provides drinking water to 1.5 million people."
The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public-comment period and final court approval.