EPA and Washington Dairies Reach Agreement to Reduce Nitrate in Local Groundwater

March 6, 2013 12:16 PM

The dairies will take steps to control nitrogen sources, such as manure and commercial fertilizer, at their facilities.

Source: U.S. EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached legal agreements with a handful of dairies in the Yakima Valley of Washington State that the agency says will help reduce nitrate in area groundwater and nearby drinking water wells.

"This is good news, especially for those working locally to protect Yakima Valley groundwater," said EPA Regional Administrator Dennis McLerran in Seattle. "By working constructively with us in this local situation, the dairies have committed to protect drinking water and we have committed to collaborate on practices that keep people safe and farms in business."

Under the terms of the agreements, the dairies will:

• Provide alternate drinking water sources for neighbors within a one-mile radius whose wells have levels of nitrate above EPA’s drinking water standard of 10 parts per million;
• Take steps to control nitrogen sources, such as manure and commercial fertilizer, at their facilities;
• Conduct soil and groundwater testing at each dairy, to evaluate if nitrogen sources are being controlled.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture voiced support for today’s action.

"Nutrient management issues are critical for the community, the environment and the dairy industry," said WSDA Director Dan Newhouse. "We look forward to working with the EPA, the dairy industry and other affected parties as we strengthen our efforts in crafting long term solutions to the challenges we face."

Today’s agreements are specific to the dairies that were part of EPA’s study released last September: Cow Palace, LLC; George DeRuyter & Son, LLC; Liberty Dairy, LLC; H&S Bosma Dairy (part of Liberty Dairy); D&A Dairy, LLC; George & Margaret, LLC (part of both D&A and George DeRuyter & Sons Dairy).

The agreements complement ongoing efforts by the recently formed Lower Yakima Valley Groundwater Management Area (GWMA) to reduce threats posed to water quality from excess nitrogen from other dairies, other agricultural sources and from septic systems.

"These agreements are an important step," said EPA’s McLerran. "We expect to continue our work with state and local partners and the GWMA process to build on this collaborative effort to better understand and control other sources of nitrates in a meaningful manner."

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