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Plaintiffs enraged at ‘open dumping’ of manure on farm fields.

Gary Baise, Attorney at Law

May 14, 2020

4 Min Read
manure spreading field

Another Washington State dairy has been sued by environmental groups alleging that their storage, treatment, transportation, and disposal of liquid manure is a “solid waste” under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

The environmental plaintiffs in Washington State claim that Majestic Farms Dairy engages in “open dumping” of manure on its farm fields. The plaintiffs want Majestic Dairy to remediate its manure handling which it is claimed has caused widespread soil and groundwater contamination.

The environmental plaintiffs gave notice to the U.S. Attorney General, the U.S. EPA and the Washington State Governor and Attorney General in early January 2020. The environmental plaintiffs claim neither the U.S. DOJ, EPA nor the state have sought to prosecute Majestic Farms Dairy and as a result, plaintiffs are doing so in a citizen suit. The lead plaintiff in the case is the Community Association for Restoration of the Environment, Inc. (CARE). Two other plaintiffs are Friends of Toppenish Creek and the “old friend” of agriculture, Center for Food Safety (CFS) which is located in Washington, D.C.

CARE claims it is a group of community members in Washington State that seeks to inform citizens of activities that endanger their health, welfare, and quality of life. CARE also claims its members “…make domestic and agricultural use of groundwater that has been contaminated with nitrates, phosphorus, and other pollutants as a result of Majestic’s improper handling,…” of its manure.

CARE also believes its members have been negatively impacted by Majestic’s treatment and transportation of its manure and that “…Majestic’s improper practices have impacted their community’s health and safety.”

Another plaintiff, Friends of Toppenish Creek, headquarter in Yakima County and claim they have been injured and adversely affected by Majestic’s violation of RCRA. The third plaintiff, CFS, claims it represents approximately 245,000 individuals throughout the United States. CFS claims 10,000 members in the State of Washington and claims “…support [of] the public’s right to choose food and crops not sourced from or by industrial farming practices, such as CAFOs.”  

The allegations

The plaintiffs allege that Majestic Dairy has violated RCRA and that as a citizen it can bring an action in federal court because Majestic Farms Dairy is engaging in ‘open dumping” of its manure on its fields and is disposing of the manure through injection and spilling. Plaintiffs claim this manure or solid waste is discharged into waters of the state, including groundwater.

Plaintiffs claim Majestic is a large dairy CAFO with a herd size of approximately 1,000 milking cows. They also “believe” there are two water aquifers beneath the Majestic Farms Dairy and of course plaintiffs believe the manure from the animals and the manure storage lagoons leak -- therefore there is a downward migration of the wastewater into the groundwater.

This is an attack on the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Standards for Manure Storage Lagoons. Plaintiffs allege the storage lagoons “…are not designed to protect, nor are capable of protecting, human health or the environment. These standards are not scientifically established to protect groundwater and specifically allow for lagoons to seep and/or leak manure waste into the environment.” Majestic Dairy is also alleged to store its sileage on permeable surfaces and it is believed the nutrients from this sileage also reaches the underground aquifers. The plaintiffs cite EPA in determining “…nitrates pose an acute health concern at certain levels of exposure.”

Blue baby syndrome

The complaint also complains that Majestic Dairy creates a high level of nitrate in the water and that this high level “…can also cause a blood disorder in infants known as…”Blue Baby Syndrome” that can be fatal if left untreated. Plaintiffs claim Majestic Dairy has been discarding its manure in such a way as to cause imminent and substantial endangerment to plaintiffs’ members.  Plaintiffs also claim Majestic is engaged in illegal open dumping by putting its manure on its fields. In addition, the complaint requests temporary and permanent injunctive relief against Majestic and requests the dairy provide safe drinking water immediately to all residents living within three miles of Majestic Farms Dairy.

Another major legal challenge for dairy farmers!

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 

About the Author(s)

Gary Baise

Attorney at Law, Gary H. Baise

Gary Baise is an Illinois farmer and attorney. He also serves as outside General Counsel for several national agriculture organizations, including Agricultural Retailers Association and National Sorghum Producers. Baise organized President Trump’s agricultural team of advisers. He was the first Chief of Staff to the first U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator. He owns a family farm in Jacksonville, Ill.

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