Pig Blood in the Trinity and Bullshit on the Blogs: About That Shiny, Happy Video

Categories: News

Update 3:37: City Hall isn't buying that Columbia Pack video any more than we are. City spokesman Frank Librio sent out the following response just now:

March 12, 2012 To: Media

From: City of Dallas PIO

Re: Columbia Packing

The City will use all legal means possible to ensure that Columbia Packing, or any company in the City, is not allowed to continue to discharge illicit waste and potentially harm the public and the environment.

Columbia Packing officials, on video, focus on a hidden pipe on their property that they claim was clogged with brick and other material. What company officials do not address is another hidden, illegal pipe discovered that was installed to bypass the City's monitoring device in the sanitary sewer line. The illegal installation of that bypass allowed the discharge of pig blood and other unsanitary waste materials without City oversight.

Columbia Packing has failed to document when and how this illegal bypass was installed. The bypass pipe appeared to be of recent vintage.

The search warrant and associated affidavit speak for themselves and clearly outline daily investigatory activities on the part of the City and other investigators from the day the situation was brought to the City's attention.

Frank J. Librio
Managing Director
Public Information Office
City of Dallas

Original post: Oh, man. We're so embarrassed right now. Here we are, finally posting that video from the Pig Blood People that's been all over local media websites this morning. Must learn to be quicker and stop wasting time doing pointless things, like asking pesky questions that begin with the words, "Yeah, but ..."

We'll endeavor to do better in the future -- or maybe worse, depending on your point of view.

See, we knew we were beaten to the punch when we spotted The Dallas Morning News web site this morning and an item (labeled "Robert Wilonsky reports"; is he new or something?) about the Pig Blood People -- also known as Columbia Packing Co., the folks whose slaughterhouse got caught turning a creek and the Trinity River red with pig blood.

We're not sure what, exactly, the News means by "reports" in this case, as the item itself is a YouTube video and letter that, according to the account in the News, sort of appeared out of the ether this morning, portraying the owners of the Pig Blood Place in a much more favorable light than hitherto seen in most media, including this one.

Not to say the Pig Blood People don't deserve to be portrayed favorably. But here's the thing. Warm fuzzy soft-focus favorable videos about Pig Blood People do not appear out of the ether too much. Like, ever. An act of conception is required. Favorable videos do not come from the stork.

Warm fuzzy videos do tend to come from very competent public relations people, as did this one from Sarah Dodd, a real estate and zoning consultant often in the news. She offered us the same video this morning, and here it is, finally, after we putzed around a bit trying to find some kind of useful context other than, "Oh, my God! The stork just left a favorable video of the Pig Blood People on our porch!"

For example, we called Dodd and tried to ask about a few things that puzzled us in the video and letter. Like when Columbia President Joe Ondrusek says it's the city's fault that his company for at least 41 days washed enough pig blood into the creek to turn it and the downstream Trinity red. See, the city knew about the blood, but didn't tell him. Columbia dwelt in ignorant innocence about the fact his company had a blocked sewer line and that the slaughterhouse was sending enough pig blood from a clean-out to dye a river.

Bad city, he's says. Shame.

Yeah, but, we thought, wasn't it his sewer line that was blocked? And, yeah, Ondrusek says no one told him about the bloody creek, but are we supposed to believe his workers didn't see or smell the font of blood coming up from that clean-out? OK, sure, but didn't they notice their drains running kind of of slowly? And, yeah, maybe they didn't, but shouldn't Columbia, you know, kind of pay attention to where it's depositing it's gallons of pig blood?

Questions, so many questions. We called Dodd and tried to put some of them to her, but she said she just did the video and wasn't acting as a spokesperson for the company. So we called the company and asked for Ondrusek, but were referred to some nice woman, who told us to call Dodd.

So really, all we have is the video, a bunch of unanswered questions and a nagging feeling that Dodd just played the local blogosphere like a flock of pigeons. Still, we like to make sure you know where stuff's coming from, and we want for you to know, too, Dear Reader. That's all. No biggie. Forgive us if we're sort of old-school next to those wiggy-wacky zanies over at the city's only daily newspaper. They're so crazy over there! It's fun.

Oh, and one more thing: This morning, a couple of hours after Dodds' video found its way to the News site untouched, reporter Rudy Bush did do some reporting in which he reported City Council member Dwaine Caraway saying this: "You don't go in two days before the drug bust and let the drug dealers know you're coming. It's not anybody's responsibility to tell you you're breaking the law. If you've been in business 100 years, certainly you know when you've got a problem."

Nicely done, Mr. Bush.

Columbia Letter to Customers


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54 comments
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BTS
BTS

Those guys in the video are bad liars. Just check Google Earth satellite picture of that creek from 3/31/11 directly behind the plant. It turn from green clear to dark red and it must have just started that day because where the creek dumps into the Trinity, the finger of dark water is short. No flooding that day, the Trinity looks at a low level in the picture. I know from experience that it takes days for the Trinity to return to normal after a good rain. Hey for all the geniuses on here that are worried about jobs being taken away it the plant closes, how about letting them dump the pig blood on your lawn. I bet it would make good fertilizer.

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

Only if the pigs are fed a strict vegetarian diet.  Liquid fish is better.

Urbandweller203
Urbandweller203

Any business along the Trinity will have to operate different moving forward. Columbia is a slaughter house across the street from a residential neighborhood and have been there 90+ years. There has always been a bad odor in this area. Just maybe it's time for a change; things do change, especially after 100 years. Proctor and Gamble left years ago after funking up the place.  It's a small company, I rarely saw pigs coming in, but I heard them squilling like  a lobster in some hot water. I think overall, his time is up. Sustainability, green space, bike trails, nice bridges, intown living, and even having a vegan lifestyle has all made it's way to the forefront and I welcome it.

Matt Chappel
Matt Chappel

Change? Like forcing a business off of land they own? Since Columbia was there for the last 80 years, don't you think they have more of a right to the land than anyone else?

If you don't like the smell of pigs, why the hell would you live near a slaughterhouse?

Urbandweller203
Urbandweller203

I have the right to live anyhere I please, just like the other hundreds of  people in the area. Columbia has the right to own the land, but the days of doing what the hell you want on land that is zoned IR Industrial is OVER! Maybe he can use the property to do some high tech research on the affects of pigs blood on fish, or better yet he can use the facililty to research the affects on the high sodium level of sodium in pork.  He doesn't have to move. The city did not say move, just abide by the zoning laws, USDA fed regs, and local codes. Once he does that he's good.

RTGolden
RTGolden

"use the facililty to research the affects on the high sodium level of sodium in pork."I would think it wouldn't take a lot of research to determine that there is a high sodium level in sodium.  I think that would hold true if the sodium in question is in pork, beef, or seaweed salad.Sorry, couldn't resist the jab.

Wes Scott
Wes Scott

Matt, nobody is challenging the right of the family to own the land. It is their land, and tehy can do with it whatever is legal and allowed by zoning restrictions and permits obtained from the city. Owning land does NOT allow the landowner to do whatever he wants to do with it.

The fact that the slaughterhouse was there for all those years is irrelevant. Neuhoff was located just off IH 35 near Oak Lawn for many years, but eventually had to close that location because of the foul odors that emanated from it. Proctor and Gamble was there in South Dallas for many decades, but cities grow and sometimes what was okay before becomes less than acceptable later. If you do not like zoning laws, then move your ass to Houston where you can have a huge, stinking factory right in the middle of your residential neighborhood.

Nobody can force the family to sell or give up their land, but the city sure as hell can regulate the use of the land. We do it every single day, and it is perfectly legal. That is why we have the Dallas City Plan Commission and a set of zoning ordinances that dictate what is and is not allowed.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

And if someone at the city wants the land, im sure they can come up with some reason to take it. And if you think you get fair market value in eminent domain, you are crazy, just ask the people of arlington over by cowboys stadium

Wes Scott
Wes Scott

Liar! Eminent domain CANNOT be used to seize property over a violation of the law. It is used to take land, with a payment of fair market value, whenever something beneficial to the general public good needs the land, such as a major roadway to ease traffic conditions, or something like that. TransCanada is now finding out that they may not be able to use eminent domain to seize private property for their Keystone XL pipeline because they are a private, for-profit corporation and the pipeline benefits the corporation far more than it does the public.

Look it up! There are definite limits to eminent domain, and even more so over the past few years due to abuses of that power against the wrong people who had the time, money and desire to fight it.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

"Nobody can force the family to sell or give up their land, but the city sure as hell can regulate the use of the land. We do it every single day, and it is perfectly legal. That is why we have the Dallas City Plan Commission and a set of zoning ordinances that dictate what is and is not allowed."

Liar-eminent domain

North Dallas Dude
North Dallas Dude

I don't much about PR but I do know I have seen this family all over the news today.  It made me change my mind how I view the situation--seems pretty smart they are telling their story directly to the public.

Matt Chappel
Matt Chappel

Wait a second...

Isn't Jim Schutze usually all about job creation in southern Dallas? Does he really think a minor, victimless accident should warrant the removal of 100+ jobs from Southern Dallas?

Isn't it Jim Schutze the guy who's always writing articles chiding busy-body city officials (like Carraway and JWP) for running jobs out of Southern Dallas?

Why the change of tune? Where are the victims of this "crime"? Where's the irreparable social damage this business is responsible for?

Apparently, the author of this article has already decided the Ondruseks are the bad guys, and no amount of evidence to the contrary matters.

Yay "journalism" ?

Marc
Marc

Matt, polluting the Trinity River is hardly a "minor, victmless accident" as you allege. The Trinity River is THE major drinking water source for over 50% of ALL Texas residents. It feeds Lake Livingson, which is one of the major drinking water reservoirs for the City of Houston, as well as numerous other, smaller cities and towns. Why don't you contact the City of Houston water department and ask them if pig blood in the water is something that THEY consider to be a "minor, victimless accident"?

And, what I read was that there were TWO pipes found - the old one to which Ondrusek referred and a second one that was acting as a functioning bypass that carried the pig blood into the creek and the river. Here is the paragraph again so that you can try reading for comprehension:

"Columbia Packing officials, on video, focus on a hidden pipe on their property that they claim was clogged with brick and other material. What company officials do not address is another hidden, illegal pipe discovered that was installed to bypass the City's monitoring device in the sanitary sewer line. The illegal installation of that bypass allowed the discharge of pig blood and other unsanitary waste materials without City oversight."

Now, does THAT make any difference to you, or do you just automatically take the side of the business owner without considering ALL the facts?

JimS
JimS

Matt, Matt, Matt: I have no idea if the Ondruseks are bad guys. I do lean toward probably not. But I don't know, and that's the point. This is a situation that demands more daylight. I see some wishful thinking here about "just moving on." That's not going to happen. It's just like that pipe: the way out of this for the Odruseks is the way through it. Ain't no way around it.I do think this: if you were the city and you looked at all of the businesses up and down the river and said, "We want to hold on to thoise businesses and jobs, but we want to change how they operate," you would be much more pro-actve and think in terms of showing them how to follow the rules. This situation has way too much butt-kicking going on for people who sell ham, not heroin.The video does do one thing for me: those Ondruseks sure don't look like gangsters. Some people say follow the money. I say follow the land. Somebody wants it.

Matt Chappel
Matt Chappel

 "Some people say follow the money. I say follow the land. Somebody wants it."

Exactly. I think Mr. Carraway has probably already promised it to someone.

Watchingfromafar
Watchingfromafar

Doing a video the city can immediately challenge was a really bad idea. That isn't the way to get in front of this type of situation.  Everyone and their brother says they are experts at crisis management. Few have ever really done it and fewer still have any track record of success. In this case the PR folks held the client's hand as the plane went down in flames. A bypass - if the city is correct - of the type described could be a very serious legal issue. It will be to bad if average workers at the plant pay the price for the poor handling of this issue. 

Matt Chappel
Matt Chappel

This obviously was an accident... So, why doesn't the city just fine them and let's move on...?

Poppacraig
Poppacraig

So they "accidentally" installed an illegal bypass pipe in direct violation of EPA standards?

Matt Chappel
Matt Chappel

From the letter:

"You may have read in the newspaper or seen on television accusations that Columbia hada “hidden pipe” on our property. This is a false characterization. What the city of Dallasis alleging is factually incorrect and legally wrong.During the search of our property, authorities dug many holes looking for a source of contamination. A buried pipe was dug up, but it was an abandoned pipe- not a hidden pipe. The pipe in question was 100 yards away from our plant and was not physicallyconnected in any way to our facility. In fact, when the pipe was removed, it was socompacted with dirt and brick, nothing could have flowed through it. The pipe was soold that we were not even aware it existed. The pipe did not have a use, so we removed itfrom the property in the presence the Dallas City Attorney’s office. Additionally, theCity video taped the abandoned pipe’s removal, so there is proof that this was not afunctioning pipe"

Investigativereporters
Investigativereporters

I don't know who is right but the city issues a press release saying they are talking about a different pipe that was recently installed. Inquiring minds want to know.

Matt Chappel
Matt Chappel

The "bypass pipe" you're referring to is a 50+ year-old pipe that wasn't connected to anything. You would have known that had you watched the video or read the accompanying letter.

I would suggest you read/watch before commenting.

Prsapro
Prsapro

If I understand how this works they were being billed based on the readings on the city meter. That is why it is there. If they were bypassing it they were ripping off the city. That could be a crime. Putting out the video without fact checking - is a crime of sorts. PRSA membership (Public Relations Society of America) membership could be at risk.   

mopickens
mopickens

"could be" ? these people are as crooked as the day is long

Bob
Bob

So you're threatening to revoke Sarah's PRSA membership? Look, pal, that's not how it operates, and you know better. Call Sarah yourself and grind your ax mano-she-mano.

Prpro
Prpro

Tounge in cheek.  People in the PR field will get it. You obviously don't. Dumb stunts like that video give everyone in PR a bad name. Everyone bills themselves as experts in crisis management when they don't have the slightest idea of what the term means. Spending time in front of a television camera doesn't qualify anyone to be an expert in the many complex facets of crisis management. Pardon my pun but the folks at the slaughterhouse bought a pig in a poke or to put it another way you can't put lipstick on this pig.   

Southdallas
Southdallas

Wrong again my friend. The media, including television stations, would have shown up for a news conference with or without the video. If the video is misleading then it was a mistake. In addition, the family could have gotten their side of the story out much sooner had they not taken the time to make the video. When people are selling social media it becomes the perverbial when you only have a hammer ever problem is a nail. 

Bob
Bob

Hey smart guy. Read my edits carefully. Add a comma after "in print," and change the elipses to a period. End of story.

- 30 -

tmickle
tmickle

It seems you must be jealous of Sarah....whoever did this video is a media genius with the social media generation.....it forced the TV stations to tell the family's story...you seem a little preoccupied with Sarah (whoever  Sarah is)...maybe you need clients of your own--MR PRPRO. 

Prpro
Prpro

Please read my comments carefully. The pig in a poke refers to the video not to Sarah. The lipstick comments refers to the problem not Sarah. The correct term is "in print" not on print. The video was a major screw up. Period. It would be a screw up if anyone did it.I have nothing against Sarah and don't really know her. Whoever came up with the video idea is not qualified to handle crisis communications...period. End of story.

Bob
Bob

Any ex-reporter worth his weight knows that sarcasm does not work well on print. And why are you comparing Sarah to a pig? Have you no shame? She is a sweetheart.

Replay
Replay

AHA! The City IS involved. No great surprise.

Do you hear that great sucking sound as another 120 jobs leaves South Dallas?

cp
cp

So you're saying that the only way South Dallas will ever prosper is if we allow companies who break the law and illegally pollute/dump there?

Replay
Replay

No, not at all. But the City needs to double check its bedside manner. When a company who employs this many people is caught doing something illegal, the City should work WITH the company to make sure the problem is corrected. Evidently, this company has been a taxpayer for 99 years. I think they deserve more than being run out of town on a rail. I recall a similar situation not long ago with a scrap metal dealer and Dwayne Caraway. This situation is like Deja Vu all over again.

cp
cp

Also, IIRC, the City HAS been working with this company. 

cp
cp

That is what I call a double standard. The City needs to enforce all its laws on all its corporate citizens, PERIOD. Just because you've been a taxpayer for 99 years doesn't entitle you to special treatment. It just doesn't. The City isn't supposed to pick and choose which businesses they like the best. They need to treat all of them equally. 

Tom L (No, not that L)
Tom L (No, not that L)

Ooh! Nice spin, there! Very well done. Are you also going to complain the next time the city does a drug bust because all those fine entrepreneurs are being put out of business?

Replay
Replay

That comment is ridiculous on its face. These people are not involved in the drug business, or at least, that has not been alleged yet. It seems these people have operated a legitimate business for 99 years in Dallas. They deserve to be treated with some respect and, if they have broken the law, they should be dealt with accordingly. But, certainly nothing that would rise to the level of chasing them, and their jobs, away from South Dallas.

Albert
Albert

If the Republicans aren't involved, why run this?

Bob
Bob

 Albert - Republicans ARE involved. See Dodd, Sarah.

Phelps
Phelps

Part two is about how it involves Rick Perry and someone's uterus.

Anna Merlan
Anna Merlan

Especially if it's Rick Perry's uterus. Hell, I'll drive to Austin for that one. 

Anna Merlan
Anna Merlan

That's actually not a bad movie plot we've got going here. 

Montemalone
Montemalone

 Just wait, it'll probably do a speaking tour of Texas extolling the virtues of HPV vaccine and abstinence only education!

Montemalone
Montemalone

 It is about pigs.Potato, Potatoe.

Albert
Albert

No wonder Osama bin Laden hated them.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

It's a pleasure working with Rudy Bush.

Bob
Bob

Oh, stop it already.

Raymond
Raymond

 and I like that you two are roommates at DMN. Congrats.

Montemalone
Montemalone

Good Day Sir,I was just over there at your new Homepage, and noticed the headline, which both confused and delighted.http://www.dallasnews.com/Is this another scoop? I didn't know Perry was still in the race, much less in the lead.

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