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Clean Water Act Penalty Proposed Against Tillamook Dairy

Release Date: 11/21/2000
Contact Information: Bub Loiselle
(206) 553-6901

November 21, 2000 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 00-063

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing the assessment of a civil penalty for alleged illegal waste discharges from the Paramount Dairy of Tillamook, Oregon. The civil complaint against the dairy charges that a toxic soup of wastes, including feces, urine, cleaning chemicals and other dangerous substances were discharged on a daily basis from the dairy’s milk house through a pipe to Jane’s Creek, a tributary to Mill Creek. Mill Creek leads to the Trask River and Tillamook Bay.

According to Bub Loiselle, manager of EPA’s Water Quality permit enforcement unit in Seattle, the final penalty assessed against the Paramount Dairy will be up to an administrative law judge, but should not exceed $137,500.

“It’s not just animal waste we’re concerned about here, although that’s a serious problem” said Loiselle. “When disposed of improperly, rinse water containing these cleaning chemicals can be devastating to stream life. We appreciate that many dairies are caught in an economic squeeze, but that’s certainly not a license to pollute a nearby creek. We feel the penalty should fit the seriousness of the violations.”

The Paramount Dairy, located at 9090 Mill Creek Rd. in Tillamook, confines and milks approximately 600 mature dairy cows. The production area of the Paramount Dairy contains a “milk house” in which milk is chilled and stored in tanks prior to being shipped off-site for processing and sale. Approximately 100 yards southwest of the milk house is an unnamed, natural tributary of Mill Creek. This unnamed tributary is known locally as “Jane’s Creek.” The milk house contains two milk storage tanks which are drained and cleaned daily. The milk storage tank cleaning process involved rinsing one or both of the tanks each day with water, phosphoric acid, and Dynemate II, a commercial detergent containing sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) and sodium hypochlorite (chlorine bleach).

According to EPA’s Complaint, a mixture of residual milk, wash water, phosphoric acid, and Dynemate II was flushed from the milk storage tanks onto the milk house floor, where it flowed into a floor drain. The milk house floor drain also collected rinsate from the milk lines that lead to the milk storage tanks as well as wash water from boots and clothing that had become contaminated with manure.

On February 16, 17, and 18, 2000, EPA conducted a series of inspections of the Paramount Dairy. While there, EPA observed a mixture of residual milk, wash water, phosphoric acid, Dynemate II, and manure being discharged from the milk house to “Jane’s Creek.” Based on observations made at the time of the inspection, EPA alleges that the dairy discharged a mixture of residual milk, wash water, phosphoric acid, Dynemate II, and manure from the milk house to “Jane’s Creek” each day between November 1, 1995 and February 18, 2000.

When used as directed, Dynemate II rinse water contains sodium hydroxide at concentrations that can be acutely toxic to plants and aquatic life. Milk wastes, manure, and phosphoric acid are also typically high in nutrients which can cause decreased oxygen levels in receiving waters. Decreased oxygen levels can adversely impact many species of fish indigenous to the tributaries of Tillamook Bay (including salmonid species listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act) during their developmental stages as well as at maturity.

Kees Kea, the operator of the Paramount dairy named as respondent in the complaint, has thirty days from his receipt of the complaint to request a hearing by filing an answer that admits, denies, or explains the complaint’s allegations. Mr. Kea may also request an informal settlement conference with EPA in order to discuss resolution of this case.

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