A Washington dairy has agreed to shut down operations for at least three years and pay $110,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by environmentalists.
The environmental plaintiffs — Community Association for the Restoration of the Environment and Friends of Toppenish Creek — claim violations of the Solid Waste Disposal Act by Spring Canyon Ranch of Outlook, Wash.
While denying the allegations in the complaint, the company has agreed to a consent decree under which it has ceased dairy operations and agreed not to reinstate them for at least three years, in addition to decommissioning most of its manure storage lagoons by the end of 2021.
The property is instead being used to raise beef cattle.
Spring Canyon Ranch has also agreed to remove compost and manure from cow pens and then revegetate those areas by mid-2020, as well as conduct nutrient testing on any fields to which manure is applied.
Under the settlement deal, the dairy would also pay $60,000 for an environmental project that involves testing residential wells and providing clean drinking water to people in Washington’s Lower Yakima Valley whose wells contain more than 10 parts per million of nitrate.
The company would pay another $50,000 to compensate the environmental groups for their attorney and expert fees.
The agreement has been submitted to Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas Rice in Yakima, Wash., for approval.
Though the consent decree was filed concurrently with the complaint, court documents indicate the environmental plaintiffs notified the dairy of their intent to sue in early 2017.
Capital Press was unable to reach Spring Canyon Ranch or its attorney as of press time.
According to the complaint, the dairy confined nearly 2,400 cows and heifers year-round and applied their manure and wastewater on roughly two-thirds of its 600-acre property.
The company relies on unlined lagoons in a region whose groundwater exceeds state and federal quality standards for nitrate, the complaint said.
“The seepage of manure waste from the lagoons has contributed and is contributing to the excessive contamination of the groundwater,” the complaint said.
The complaint also alleged that the dairy over-applied manure and wastewater to its fields at a rate that couldn’t be agronomically consumed by crops, contributing to groundwater contamination.
Under the Solid Waste Disposal Act, these activities constitute “illegal open dumping” as well as an “imminent and substantial endangerment” to public health, according to the plaintiffs.