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State files lawsuit against Walnut business

WALNUT — Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has released a statement announcing a lawsuit filed by the state against Avanti Foods of Walnut for allegedly discharging high concentrations of wastewater into the village of Walnut’s sewer system and for allegedly illegally dumping dairy waste on public property.

According to Madigan’s statement, an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) inspector observed a tank truck from Avanti Foods discharging dairy waste from its facility into a field just north of the village in November 2011. After issuing a violation notice to Avanti Foods as a result of the incident, the IEPA inspected the facility in March 2012 and observed dairy residue in and near floor drains and sewer inlets. The residue posed a threat of contamination if the waste materials were to wash into the storm sewer system, the Attorney General said.

“Our office will pursue this case to ensure the company is held accountable for violating state public health and environmental laws,” Madigan said.

Allegations of water pollution, open dumping on public property and permit violations are contained in the 25-page complaint filed April 4 in Bureau County Circuit Court. Madigan’s lawsuit seeks the statutory maximum civil penalty on all 10 counts against Avanti Foods. Assistant Attorney General Evan McGinley is handling the case for Madigan’s Environmental Bureau.

According to the complaint, the state and IEPA are asking the court to order Avanti Foods to take immediate corrective action that will result in a final and permanent abatement of the alleged violations. The state and IEPA also want an assessment against Avanti Foods of $50,000 for each and every violation and an additional civil penalty of $10,000 for each day of violation.

On Thursday, Avanti Foods President Tony Zueger made the following statement concerning the lawsuit:

“We are committed to working with the Attorney General’s office and the IEPA in resolving all the issues,” Zueger said.

Avanti Foods quit making cheese in February 2012, Zueger said.

The Walnut Cheese factory opened its doors in 1932 in Walnut with Zueger’s father buying the business in 1954. The business was expanded in 1964 into Avanti Foods with a production of frozen pizzas under the “Gino’s” and “Swiss Party” labels. The cheese store and offices were built in 1977. After 80 years of being in the cheese-making business, Avanti Foods closed the doors to its cheese-making operation in February 2012.

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