Monday, April 14, 2014

Don't Trust Everything You Read

Sadly toxic companies are all around us. The more industries we build, the more toxins and waste gets pumped and dumped into our environment. Our environment is not just our parks, trails, and beautiful landscapes. It is where we live, work, and play. There are many websites that can show you what toxins are in and around your own neighborhood. By entering your zip code in sites like,, environmental watch, and even the Environmental Protection Agency website you can see the toxins in your area. These sites could be a great tool to inform citizens about their environment, but you can not always trust everything you read.

You could look at any number of these sites, but I'm going to focus on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website. The EPA has an obligation to protect human health and the environment. Their mission statement is: "They will protect all parts of society -- communities, individuals, businesses, and state, local and tribal governments by offering access to accurate information sufficient to effectively participate in managing human health and environmental risks."

It is easy to look at these websites and trust what is stated, but what happens if you look further? Our Environmental Communication group at Utah State University did just that. We were looking into a local company in Cache Valley called Gossner Foods, Inc.  Gossner Foods, was founded in 1966 and is a growing family business with three locations across the western United States.  Their main facility is located in Logan, UT and is a locally owned and operated facility.  Gossner Foods produces high quality Swiss cheese and also processes Ultra High Temperature shelf stable milk in a variety of flavors. We decided to look into this company because they were listed as being a top polluter in Cache County, UT. 

This picture here shows all the major polluters and the type of pollution they create in Cache County, according to the EPA's database.
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Here the website Scorecard rates them as #1

This last picture came directly from the EPA's website stating that Gossner's releases a toxic amount of Nitrate Compounds

On a red air day, if someone from Cache County looked outside and wondered who was causing this pollution, they may look for answers. If they came across the information on these sites and became concerned about the toxins in their area, is it safe to say Gossner Foods is somewhere to avoid? Well, we took the time to investigate this company and realized it is actually one that deserves to have its good name preserved. You shouldn't avoid Gossner Foods because they are an honest and noble company that is important to the culture and local economy of Cache County. Utah has a strong agricultural history and Gossner Foods has helped keep that history alive. They contract farm jobs to over 300 farms in the area and use that milk to manufacture world class quality products.
After personal research, outside research, and connecting with the Vice President of the company this is what we found:

Gossner Foods reports to the EPA because they produce a “coincidentally manufactured chemical … that is created through the use of one of their cleaning chemicals [nitric acid].” The amount created is over the threshold limit and requires reporting to the EPA. The listing of Gossner Foods as a “Toxic Place” by websites such as the,,, and all frame Gossner Foods in a misleading and untrue fashion, that it is more “toxic” than the chemical compounds being created by Gossner Foods itself. The website lists Gossner Foods for “Chemicals Released to the Land Surface,” citing “Nitrate Compounds” totaling over 157,000 pounds.

Greg Rowley, Executive Vice President of Gossner Foods states that “Numbers are an important part of the story but only part of the story." Gossner Foods does not deny that they are creating chemicals that are considered pollutants, but they want the truth to be known.  Greg Rowley states “the water in question runs through a pre-treatment process and is then stored in our lagoons for land application during the growing season.  During the growing season this water is applied to the ground by a center pivot that applies water at a rate the ground will absorb and at volumes that allow for agronomic uptake of the nitrogen.  [Gossner Foods] land application permit is a non-discharge permit-meaning that none of this water leaves our property.  Water is stored during the winter months for application during the growing season.  During winter months water is stored but not used for irrigation.  [Gossner Foods] perspective is that using this nitrogen to fertilize pasture grass is a better approach than a direct discharge to Logan City for treatment by their lagoons.”  He goes on to state that “there is some frustration in being perceived as a contributor to what we all recognize is a serious threat to our future when in reality we are spending significant resources to be environmentally responsible.

Note that in the picture above, the EPA has not updated their site since 2012. has not updated their information since 2010, and Scorecard has not released updates on Gossner Foods since 2002! Sometimes what you think accurately depicts reality is not what it seems. The EPA is not doing their job when they seek to "protect the society and offer accurate information."

Misleading rumors can spread when not all the information is presented or it is presented in a very poor manor. Next time the issues of toxins come up in Cache Valley, I do not want the citizens to blame Gossner Foods. When companies are mislabeled in this way their reputation can be easily damaged, costing millions to combat the untruths. Gossner Foods is part of the Cache Valley community and as part of that community they are responsible for the well being of the citizens there. They understand that responsibility and have taken it upon themselves to become an environmentally responsible citizen.

The EPA and other informational websites also have a responsibility to offer accurate, meaningful, and honest information to society. By neglecting to update their data and not clearly labeling information they are not living up to their responsibilities. Now that we have done our own research on one business and found the facts listed to be lies, I do not know what to believe. Maybe the EPA should rethink their mission statement or change their ways. Don't believe everything you read and remember to always be critically suspicious.