Manure Spill Leads to $6,000 Fine for Washington Dairy

January 22, 2014 08:30 AM

Last fall’s spill raised fecal coliform levels in a nearby creek in excess of established standards, violating the state’s Water Pollution Control Act.

Source: Washington State Department of Agriculture

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) has cited Pomeroy Dairy in Custer and fined it $6,000 for a manure spill last fall that raised fecal coliform levels in nearby California Creek in excess of established standards, violating the state’s Water Pollution Control Act. 

On Oct. 17, 2013, Whatcom County Public Works officials notified WSDA of a possible manure spill into California Creek. A WSDA inspector contacted nearby Pomeroy Dairy, which confirmed that a discharge of manure had occurred the previous day.

The Notice of Penalty issued by WSDA alleges that the problem was an underground pipe used to transfer manure. The pipe was supposed to be out of service, but had become filled because of a malfunctioning valve near the dairy’s manure lagoon. When the line filled, manure was discharged from a vertical pipe, or riser, that was broken. That manure reached a nearby ditch that is a tributary of California Creek.

An analysis found elevated levels of fecal coliform bacteria that exceeded standards as far as five miles downstream from the manure spill. An inspector also noted about 30 dead fish, some as far as 1.7 miles downstream from the spill.

As a result, Whatcom County Health closed the beach at the mouth of California Creek and the state Department of Health closed commercial shellfish harvesting in Drayton Harbor for one week.

Although the dairy immediately began work to control the manure spill, it did not report the spill, which delayed closure of the shellfish harvest and created a public health risk, a factor that increased the penalty. Another factor considered was the exceptionally high fecal coliform levels.
The Notice of Penalty was issued last week and the dairy has 30 days to seek an appeal.

Washington’s Dairy Nutrient Management Act requires dairies to develop plans to manage the manure produced by their cows. WSDA’s Dairy Nutrient Management Program enforces this act and works with the state Department of Ecology to enforce parts of the state’s Water Pollution Control Act related to dairies. 

WSDA inspectors with this program regularly visit the state’s 400 dairies to inspect manure containment and clean water diversion facilities, review records including soil tests, manure nutrient analyses, nutrient application and transfer records – all to ensure that manure is managed in a way that protects surface and groundwater from the discharge of pollutants including bacteria that can be harmful to human health and aquatic life.

Penalties paid to the WSDA Dairy Nutrient Management Program fund a grant account. The grants pay for research, education, and outreach to benefit dairies in Washington state. 

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