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First Enforcement Action in Latest Round of Dairy Inspections

Release Date: 3/19/1998
Contact Information: Bob Jacobson
(206) 553-1203 or 800-424-4372

March 19, 1998 - - - - - - - 98-11

A Sedro Woolley dairy, alleged to have sent manure-laden waste into a ditch that drains into the Skagit River, has become the first recipient of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency complaint since EPA began its latest round of dairy inspections in Washington State last December.

The complaint was issued to the Heather View Dairy, according to an announcement today 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, 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 totalling $22,000 for two discharges discovered by EPA inspectors, the first on December 19 and the other during a return visit on January 16. 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 has until April 13 to challenge the proposed penalty and to contest the allegations.