Dairy Companies Ordered to Pay Thousands if Non-Compliance With Manure Disposal Rules Continue

Four dairy companies will be required to pay a $5,000 to $10,000 fee monthly, or a $1,000 fee daily for areas of non-compliance with rules for manure disposal determined in a 2015 decree. The Eastern District of Washington previously filed an order finding non-compliance in April, a hearing was held on Tuesday and the court issued another order imposing sanctions requiring the defendants to pay for non-compliance.

The defendants, in the case, include dairies in the Lower Yakima Valley represented by Lynn Pinker Hurst Schwegmann, LLP and Halverson Northwest Law Group. The defendants are George & Margaret LLC, George DeRuyter & Son Dairy LLC, D&A Dairy, and D&A Dairy LLC.  The court ruled that the dairies did not comply with five aspects of the consent decree: lagoon lining and maintenance, underground conveyance inspection, compost area management, manure application, and field management, and records disclosure.

“Because Defendants have not been in compliance with the Consent Decree for several years, the Court finds it appropriate to order Defendants’ immediate or short-term compliance with the Consent Decree subject to coercive monetary sanctions,” Judge Thomas O. Rice stated in the order.

The court ordered that the defendants must complete at least six of their “lagoon lining and maintenance obligations” or abandon the lagoons and dispose of manure and wastewater by the end of this year. The dairies have until the end of 2021 to comply with the four additional lagoon obligations. Non-compliance will incur a $10,000 fee each month.

The defendants were also told in the order to immediately stop applying liquid manure, solid manure, or commercial fertilizers until their fields reach the required nutrient levels. These types of violations will incur a $5,000 fee for each instance. If the dairies do not complete additional inspection and repairs to their conveyance systems by the end of this year, they will incur a $1,000 fine per day.

The plaintiffs, Community Association for Restoration of the Environment, Inc. and the Center for Food Safety, represented by the Law Offices of Charlie Tebbutt, alleged that the dairies were not following a provision in the Solid Waste Disposal Act by “open dumping” manure. The initial case ended with a consent decree entered into by the parties in May 2015, however, the plaintiffs alleged in January that the defendants “repeatedly violated the Consent Decree.”

“People who live in the Lower Yakima Valley have a right to safe drinkable water and a healthy environment and we celebrate this decision that once again vindicates that right,” said Amy van Saun, an attorney with the Center for Food Safety in a press release. “Sadly, the state Department of Ecology and the federal Environmental Protection Agency have for years failed to protect this community from the harms of industrial dairies, but we won’t stop until all mega-dairies are stopped from polluting our communities.”

Although the court agreed that the defendants should pay a penalty, they did not agree with the plaintiffs’ request to alter the consent decree and require more comprehensive liners. “The Court finds that Defendants’ non-compliance with the Consent Decree does not establish a ‘significant change in facts’ that would justify rewriting the Consent Decree to impose more burdensome terms on Defendants than those to which the parties previously agreed,” the court stated in the order.