Settlement Resolves Environmental Claims Over Dairies’ Manure Management Practices
A federal district court has approved a groundbreaking settlement involving Yakima Valley mega-dairies. Plaintiffs the Community Association for Restoration of the Environment (CARE) and the Center for Food Safety alleged that three dairies improperly stored and disposed of manure, polluting the Yakima Valley environment and contaminating the groundwater. Under the consent decrees signed by the court, the dairies have agreed to make significant operational improvements that will reduce the contamination of the land and water. These measures include installing impermeable liners in manure lagoons to prevent leakage and limiting manure applications to nearby fields. The dairies will be subject to more stringent monitoring. They will also provide clean drinking water to area residents.
The dairies’ manure storage lagoons were leaking hundreds of thousands of gallons of manure each year. The dairies also applied excessive amounts of manure to their crop fields. Leakage from the lagoons and over application of manure to fields contributed to nitrate contamination in the Yakima Valley. The EPA has determined that nitrates pose an acute health concern at certain levels of exposure. Nitrates contained in drinking water are colorless and odorless. Nitrates interfere with the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood, potentially resulting in cyanosis, asphyxia, and the infant blood disorder methemoglobinemia, which can be fatal if left untreated. Ingestion of nitrates in excess is also suspected of causing various forms of cancer.
TMLG partner Toby Marshall said, “TMLG is proud to have been part of the great team of community organizations and lawyers who worked hard to ensure that Yakima Valley residents have the clean water and land they deserve. Large dairies must operate in a manner that protects both human and environmental health. The settlements obtained in these cases will bring the change necessary to achieve that goal in Yakima, and we hope this sets a new national standard for the industry.”
In a precedent-setting ruling issued prior to the settlements, the court concluded that animal waste produced by industrial farms, when mishandled, is a solid waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
CARE is a grassroots organization composed of concerned community members. Its mission is to inform Washington state residents about activities that endanger the health, welfare, and quality of life for current and future Washingtonians through education and citizen empowerment.
The Center for Food Safety is a public interest non-profit membership organization that works to protect human health and the environment by curbing the proliferation of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture.
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