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Beef processing plant near Kansas City faces new fines for exposing workers to high levels of CO2

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Harvest Public Media/File
A beef processing plant in Lone Jack, Missouri, faces fines from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for allegedly endangering employees to high levels of carbon dioxide.

The U.S. Department of Labor's latest citations against Republic Foods in Lone Jack bring the plant's count of alleged workplace violations to a total of 35 since 2020.

A Lone Jack meat processing plant faces yet another round of fines after federal inspectors found the plant’s employees were exposed to dangerous levels of carbon dioxide.

The U.S. Department of Labor chargedRepublic Foods, also known as ZDMR LLC, with its seventh citation in three years this week, according to anOccupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) report.

Federal investigators allege operators of the plant did not enact measures to limit worker exposure to dangerous levels of carbon dioxide in the plant despite knowing hazardous levels of the toxic gas existed.

"Exposing workers to high levels of carbon dioxide can cause serious illnesses and even death," said Kansas City area OSHA Director Karena Lorek in a statement. "Republic Foods failed to increase employee monitoring or change engineering controls to reduce the exposure."

Republic Foods did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

OSHA found in September 2022 that Republic Foods exposed workers to more carbon dioxide that federal regulations allow. OSHA cited the company for the same issue in Nov. 2020.

OSHA’s report said the carbon dioxide came from dry ice meant to keep meat at safe temperatures. Too much carbon dioxide can harm or even kill workers.

All told, OSHA has issued the cattle processing plant 35 citations since it opened in 2020.

OSHA also alleges the company exposed workers to slip, trip and fall hazards, violated electrical workplace safety standards and failed to ensure machinery safety guidelines.

Republic Foods faces a possible $573,913 in fines for health violations identified by inspectors. An additional investigation is underway at the plant.

In early 2022, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources also cited the facility after investigators found the plantpolluted a mile’s worth of nearby stream after its septic tanks overflowed during a rainstorm.A neighbor tipped DNR officials off after a nearby creek turned black and smelled.

The facility is on the same site as the now-closed Valley Oaks Steak Company, which closed in 2019.

The Midwest Newsroom is an investigative journalism collaboration including St. Louis Public RadioKCURIowa Public RadioNebraska Public Media and NPR.

Kavahn Mansouri is the Midwest Newsroom's investigative reporter.