Animal Feeding Operations - Compliance & Enforcement: Enforcement Cases 1998 and 1997
Animal Feeding Operations Highlights
EPA Enforcement Cases 1998 and 1997
- June 10, 1997: Dairy Waste a Concern Throughout Washington State
- December 18, 1997: Idaho Feedlot Pays $24,000 in Penalties
- March 19, 1998: EPA Files Complaint Against Dairy in Sedro Woolley, Washington
- April 28, 1998: Two Washington Dairies Face Penalties
- May 20, 1998: Dairy in Bow, Washington, Issued Complaint
- May 27, 1998: Dairy in Lynden, Washington, Issued Complaint
- October 1, 1998: ConAgra Agrees To Pay Fine and Make Improvements at Nampa Plant
June 10, 1997Dairy Waste a Concern Throughout Washington State
If what has been found in Whatcom County is typical of the rest of the state, there are probably hundreds of other dairies throughout Washington that are not doing all that federal law requires to keep cow manure out of streams, rivers and other bodies of water.
That's the conclusion of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency after completion of a wave of inspections in Whatcom County in 1997 to check on waste management practices at 57 local dairies. The results of that three-month effort have convinced EPA it should continue its unannounced inspections at dairies elsewhere in the state, declared Chuck Clarke, EPA's Northwest Regional Administrator in Seattle on June 10, 1997.
"What we learned in Whatcom County is disturbing," Clarke said. "All but six of the dairies we inspected were discovered to have problems that caused us either to go after monetary penalties or to send out warnings."
The Whatcom County results can be summarized as follows:
Evidence of actual discharges to local surface waters was found at six dairies. Because the discharges were violations of the federal Clean Water Act, the six dairies were issued complaints that sought penalties ranging from $10,000 to $22,000.
At 42 dairies, EPA observed deficiencies in how wastes were being managed. EPA issued these dairies warnings that requested the dairy operators to make improvements.
Discharges were discovered at three dairies with herds whose numbers were too small to fall under EPA's dairy waste regulations. EPA designated these three dairies as "significant contributors of pollution," a term that allows EPA and the Washington Department of Ecology to regulate them as a source subject to a wastewater discharge permit.
Clarke said the EPA remains committed to conducting more inspections of dairies in Washington, and the agency is currently engaged in deciding how to assign priorities to other areas around the state that deserve attention.
"It's not a question of whether EPA will continue inspecting dairies, it's a matter of when and where," Clarke said. "EPA wants to devote its energies to those areas around the state where the inspections carry the greatest benefits for water quality."
EPA's inspection program is part of ongoing efforts by the agency to ensure that all dairies and other concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are in compliance with the Clean Water Act. That statute requires all CAFOs to prevent runoff of wastes that can pollute nearby surface waters. Discharges from CAFOs typically contain bacteria, large amounts of nutrients, and other organic matter that can degrade water quality and harm wildlife.
According to Clarke, EPA prefers that state agencies -- not EPA -- conduct dairy inspections within their borders, and has delegated to Washington, Idaho, and Oregon the authority to carry out compliance programs. In Idaho and Oregon, state personnel conduct ongoing inspections.
"Washington is a different story, and there EPA is doing dairy inspections on its own because inadequate funding and a number of other factors have kept the Department of Ecology from conducting a proactive compliance program," Clarke said. "Ecology has been performing inspections mostly in response to complaints -- in other words, after problems have become evident, instead of routinely inspecting the dairies before things go wrong."
Clarke said that EPA chose Whatcom County dairies as targets for inspections after the discovery of fecal coliform bacteria in shellfish beds in Portage Bay near the mouth of the Nooksack River. Animal wastes from the dairies along the Nooksack were seen as a source of the fecal coliform.
While EPA inspectors are mainly concerned with manure, they also check on how dairies and feedlots store their silage. If pollutants from stored silage are not contained, there is a danger they could reach a creek or stream and deprive the water of oxygen needed to support aquatic life.
December 18, 1997Idaho Feedlot Pays $24,000 in Penalties
The Idaho Feedlot Company of Eagle, Idaho, agreed to pay a $24,000 civil penalty to settle a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency complaint that the feedlot repeatedly violated the federal Clean Water Act early in 1997 by discharging manure-laden water into a drainage network that flows into the Boise River.
The settlement was announced on December 18, 1997, by Leroy Loiselle, chief of EPA's Regional water compliance unit in Seattle. In agreeing to the settlement, Idaho Feedlot neither admitted nor denied the allegations by EPA in its complaint last June.
The complaint was based on a series of inspections by EPA and the Idaho Division of Environmental Quality (IDEQ) in January and February 1997. The inspectors reported five illegal discharges from Idaho Feedlot entering an irrigation water return ditch connected to the Boise River. Idaho Feedlot is located near Eagle about 10 miles northwest of Boise. More than 10,000 animals are kept at the feedlot.
The EPA-IDEQ inspections were part of ongoing efforts by EPA and state authorities to ensure that feedlots and dairies subject to Clean Water regulations for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are in compliance with the law. The statute requires CAFOs to keep pollutants out of waters like the Boise River. Discharges from CAFOs typically contain bacteria, large amounts or nutrients, and other organic matter that can degrade water quality and harm wildlife.
March 19, 1998EPA Files Complaint Against Dairy in Sedro Woolley, Washington
A Sedro Woolley dairy in Washington, alleged to have sent manure-laden waste into a ditch that drains into the Skagit River, became the first recipient of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency complaint since EPA began its latest round of dairy inspections in Washington State in December 1997.
The complaint was issued to the Heather View Dairy, according to an announcement on March 19, 1998, by Phil Millam, Water Director at EPA's Northwest Regional Headquarters in Seattle.
"This is only the first of what could be as many as a dozen or more EPA complaints against Washington dairies," Millam declared. "EPA inspectors have found a number of situations where dairy operators are not doing all that the law requires to keep cow manure out of our rivers and streams.
"More announcements of EPA complaints -- like the one today about Heather View Dairy -- will be made soon."
Since December 1997, Millam said, EPA inspectors have made unannounced visits to more than 45 dairies in five Washington counties to check for compliance with the federal Clean Water Act, the statute that prohibits runoff of animal wastes into nearby bodies of water. Animal wastes contain bacteria, heavy amounts of nutrients, and other organic matter than can degrade water quality and harm wildlife.
The Heather View Dairy complaint proposes civil penalties totaling $22,000 for two discharges discovered by EPA inspectors -- the first on December 19, 1997, and the other during a return visit on January 16, 1998. Both discharges were to a drainage ditch south of Rhodes Road in Sedro Woolley. Fecal coliforms were found in the ditch water.
According to the complaint, fecal coliforms indicate a potential risk to the health of persons exposed to the contaminated water. Dairy waste can contain E. coli bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause gastroenteritis, severe fever, and -- in the most serious cases -- kidney failure or even death.
The complaint to the Heather View Dairy was accompanied
by a compliance order that requires the dairy operators to stop all discharges
of wastes from storage ponds, silage piles, or any animal confinement
area, plus all discharges resulting from land application of animal wastes.
The dairy operators are required to check daily for any discharge; if
one is observed, samples must be
taken and analyzed by a laboratory for fecal coliforms. Also, EPA must be notified and steps taken by the dairy to prevent such discharges from happening again.
Heather View Dairy had until April 13, 1998, to challenge the proposed penalty and to contest the allegations.
April 28, 1998Two Washington Dairies Face Penalties
Two western Washington dairies were named in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency complaints alleging that manure was allowed to escape from the dairies into conduits that drain into the Snoqualmie River, in violation of the federal Clean Water Act.
The complaints were issued to a dairy in Monroe (Snohomish County) and to Green Acres Dairy in Duvall (King County). The complaint to the dairy in Monroe seeks penalties of $22,000; the complaint to Green Acres seeks $11,000.
Announcement of the complaints was made on April 28, 1998, by LeRoy Loiselle, chief of the water compliance unit at EPA's Northwest regional headquarters in Seattle.
"At both the Monroe and Green Acres dairies, EPA inspectors found that the operators were not doing all that the law requires to keep manure out of our rivers and streams," Loiselle said.
When the Monroe dairy was inspected on February 4, 1998, EPA inspectors observed two discharges into a ditch connected to the Snoqualmie River. One discharge was from a breach in a waste storage pond, the other was leachate from a bunker where silage was stored.
During the February 12, 1998, inspection at Green Acres, EPA inspectors observed a discharge of manure-laden waste from a storage pond into a culvert that drains directly to the Snoqualmie River.
The two inspections were among the more than four dozen unannounced inspections that EPA performed starting in December 1997 at dairies in Pierce, King, Snohomish, Skagit, and Whatcom counties. The purpose of the inspections is to check the dairies for compliance with the federal Clean Water Act, the statute that prohibits runoff of wastes that can pollute nearby streams, rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. Runoff from dairies typically contains bacteria, large amounts of nutrients, and other organic matter that can degrade water quality and harm wildlife.
Inspectors are mainly concerned with manure, but they also check on how dairies store their silage. Because leachate from stored silage can deplete oxygen, there is a danger that if the leachate entered a creek or stream it could deprive the water of oxygen needed to support aquatic life.
At both the Monroe and Green Acres dairies, the EPA inspectors took samples of the animal wastes entering the drainage ditches. Laboratory analyses revealed the presence of fecal coliform bacteria. Dairy wastes can contain E. coli bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause gastroenteritis, severe fever, and, in the most serious cases, kidney failure or even death.
The complaints to the Monroe and Green Acres dairies were accompanied by compliance orders that require the dairy operators to stop all discharges of waste from storage ponds, silage piles, or any animal confinement area, plus all discharges resulting from land application of animal wastes. The dairy operators are required to check daily for any discharge; if one is observed, samples must be taken and analyzed by a laboratory for fecal coliforms. Also, EPA must be notified and steps must be taken by the dairy to prevent such discharges from happening again.
The dairies had 30 days from the date they received the complaints to challenge the penalties EPA proposed and to contest EPA's allegations.
May 20, 1998Dairy in Bow, Washington Issued Complaint
On May 20, 1998, Hansen Farms, a dairy in the Skagit County community of Bow, was issued a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency complaint alleging it allowed runoff of liquids contaminated with manure to drain into ditches that flow toward Samish Bay.
The runoff, observed at the Hansen dairy by EPA inspectors in December 1997, is considered an illegal discharge under the federal Clean Water Act, according to the complaint. The complaint was announced by LeRoy Loiselle, chief of the water compliance unit at EPA's regional headquarters in Seattle.
The complaint proposed a civil penalty of $11,000. Hansen Farms had 30 days from the date the complaint was received to challenge the penalty or to contest EPA's allegations.
The complaint was accompanied by a compliance order that requires Hansen Farms to stop all discharges of wastes from storage ponds, silage piles, or any animal confinement area, plus all discharges resulting from land application of animal wastes. Hansen Farms is required to check daily for any discharge; if one is observed, samples must be taken and analyzed by a laboratory for fecal coliform bacteria. Also, EPA must be notified and steps taken by the dairy to prevent such discharges from recurring.
Hansen Farms was the sixth dairy to receive a complaint and compliance order as a result of inspections EPA has conducted at dairies in western Washington since December, 1997. Inspection reports are still being reviewed at EPA's offices in Seattle. More complaints and compliance orders are expected to be issued.
May 27, 1998Dairy in Lynden, Washington Issued Complaint
On May 27, 1998, a Whatcom County dairy became the seventh dairy in western Washington in 1998 to be issued an EPA complaint alleging it allowed manure or other wastes to enter neighboring surface waters.
The complaint was sent to the operator of a dairy farm in Lynden and proposed a civil penalty of $11,000. The complaint stems from an EPA inspection December 17, 1997, when, according to their report, the inspectors observed runoff of manure-contaminated wastewater flowing into the Guide-Meridian Road ditch. The ditch is connected to Bertrand Creek.
The runoff at the dairy is considered an illegal discharge under the federal Clean Water Act, the statute that prohibits the runoff of wastes from dairies and other concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) into nearby streams, rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. Runoff from dairies typically contains bacteria, large amounts of nutrients, and other organic material that can degrade water quality and harm wildlife.
The dairy had 30 days from the date the complaint was received to challenge the penalty or to contest EPA's allegations.
The complaint was accompanied by a compliance order that requires the dairy to stop all discharges of wastes from storage ponds, silage piles, or any animal confinement area, plus all discharges resulting from land application of animal wastes. The dairy is required to check daily for any discharge; if one is observed, samples must be taken and analyzed by a laboratory for fecal coliforms. Also, EPA must be notified and steps taken by the dairy to prevent such discharges from recurring.
The dairy is one of 40 dairies that have been inspected (some more than once) since December 1997, when EPA began inspecting western Washington dairy farms for compliance with the Clean Water Act. Here's a summary of what's happened so far:
Dairies sent complaints and compliance orders (7)
Dairies sent a compliance order only (l)
Of the other dairies inspected, 20 have been sent warning letters from EPA because of what inspectors observed during their visits. The warning letters officially told the dairy operators that the inspectors had found shortcomings in the way manure and other wastes were being managed at their farms. If inspectors saw conditions with a high potential for an actual discharge of manure or other wastes, the letters directed the dairies to make the necessary improvements.
Inspection reports from 12 other dairies are still under review by EPA. More complaints and compliance orders are expected to be issued.
October 1, 1998ConAgra Agrees To Pay Fine and Make Improvements at Nampa Plant
ConAgra Inc. agreed to spend more than $3.5 million -- $1 million in a cash penalty and the rest for environmental improvements -- to settle a complaint in federal court alleging that ConAgra's Armour Fresh Meats slaughterhouse and meat packing plant in Nampa, Idaho, committed more than 600 violations of the Clean Water Act between 1992 and 1996. The settlement was announced on October 1,1998.
The ConAgra settlement is the latest in a series of recent federal Clean Water Act cases involving large animal feedlots and slaughterhouses across the country.
"The settlement means cleaner water and healthier communities for the people who live in and around Nampa, Idaho," said Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. "Wastewater from animal feedlots and slaughterhouses is a serious environmental concern. The announcement sends a message to industry that we will vigorously enforce our nation's clean water laws. We will work tirelessly to protect public health and safety, and hold accountable those who break environmental laws."
Marc Haws, the civil chief in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boise, collaborated with the Department of Justice as local counsel on the case.
"This is a responsible decision by local industry that will be beneficial to the local environment," Haws said. "This is a very good result in a very difficult case."
The announcement of the settlement was made in Seattle by Chuck Clarke, Northwest regional administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
By terms of the settlement, ConAgra agreed to take a number of measures, including the following:
To stop dumping millions of gallons of partially treated wastewater each year onto nearby cropland.
To build new waste storage ponds with liners to replace existing ponds without liners.
To reduce the number of cattle confined in the ConAgra feedlot at the slaughterhouse.
"The settlement will have enormous environmental benefits for Indian Creek and the Boise River downstream," declared Clarke.
EPA is especially concerned about the environmental impact of ConAgra's Nampa operations because shallow groundwater lies beneath the slaughterhouse, the feedlot, the waste storage ponds, and the cropland where ConAgra applied partially treated wastewater, Clarke explained. Groundwater in the immediate area flows into Indian Creek, both through the soil and through "french drains" installed by ConAgra to control groundwater elevation.
"If ammonia or other nutrients enter a stream like Indian Creek, the nutrients promote the growth of algae or other vegetation that can deplete the water of oxygen," Clarke said. "Water quality is degraded, and there can be harm to fish and other aquatic life."
If the case had gone to trial, Clarke added, EPA was ready to present evidence that fecal coliform bacteria had been entering the creek from the ConAgra feedlot.
The settlement is contained in a consent decree lodged in U.S. District Court in Boise. The settlement brings to an end the litigation that began when the Department of Justice filed a civil complaint on behalf of EPA in March 1996.
Last November, after hearing a motion for summary judgment, the court found that ConAgra -- between 1992 and 1996 --- was liable for 260 violations of effluent limits in the wastewater discharge permit issued to the company's Armour Fresh Meat slaughterhouse and meat packing plant in Nampa. The court also found ConAgra liable, during same period, for two unpermitted discharges, 51 failures to perform required monitoring and reporting, and 312 recordkeeping violations.
Clarke said most of the violations occurred before 1995, the year that ConAgra spent more than $1 million to upgrade its wastewater treatment facilities.
It is expected that ConAgra will spend an additional $1.5 million to build the new lined treatment ponds, and slightly more than $1 million to change its feedlot operations.
Until recently ConAgra operated a feedlot at the slaughterhouse with as many as 1,600 animals confined at any one time. Under the terms of the settlement, ConAgra will operate a much smaller feedlot at the slaughterhouse. The new feedlot will have a concrete floor and will confine only the number of cattle that will be slaughtered in a single day.