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Plant dumping, uncovered by drone photos, will go without felony charges

May 13, 2014


The Columbia Packing Company in Dallas, Texas that was discovered in 2011 to have been dumping blood into a river after a drone enthusiast captured aerial photos of the meat-packing plant was fined $100,000 for violating water code.

However, plant operators will not be serving jail time, as a state district judge dismissed than a dozen felony charges last week, according to The Dallas Morning News.

The charges were dropped by request of the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, which a Dallas city councilman said had mishandled the investigation. That councilman, Dwaine Carraway, told reporters that Columbia misled the city, and that the city should revoke its permits to operate.

In 2011, a hobbyist flying a small, camera-equipped, remote-controlled airplane took photos of the Trinity River, which launched an investigation into the nearby plant. Interviewed by in January 2012, the pilot said he initially didn’t know what was wrong with the river, but that “Whatever it is, it was flat out gross.”

“Then comes the question of who do I report this to that can find out what it is and where it is coming from,” he wrote.

Despite the fact that this was not the work of a journalist, the Dallas incident remains perhaps the strongest case study of how this emerging technology could aid investigative reporters and drone journalists.

Tip of the hat to longtime Professional Society of Drone Journalists (PSDJ) member Rebecca Noah Poynter for sending along this news tip.

Matthew Schroyer
guest author
Matthew Schroyer is a drone and data journalist based in Urbana, Illinois.

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